Location: Udaipur, India
Location: Udaipur, India
Just come into this tinternet cafe and they want me to fill in a form. Are you serious I ask and laugh. It asks Name, Father's Name, Occupation, Education, Permanent Address, Telephone Number including Mobile, Office/Present Address, E-mail. Then there's boxes to tick which read Voter Card, Pan Card, Driving Licence, Passport, School/College ID Card and Company ID Card. Then you have to sign.
I write Name, Fred Bloggs, Father's Name, Jimmy Bloggs, Occupation, Binman.....me mate Rick always says I have a binman walk ;-) Education, none, Age, 84, D.O.B 21/04/67 the only true bit, Sex, yes please, Permanent Address, not nown, Office, I leave blank....well I am unemployed you know.
Then I tick the boxes Pan Card and Driving Licence. Oh and then sign Frederick Bloggs esq.
Last night I took a deluxe sleeper bus from Bikaner to Udaipur. I was given the bed 13 and thought unlucky for some. It turned out to be quite unlucky because bed 13 was right at the back and now as an expert on bus travel in India meant 12 hours of Bucking Bronco. You see the best seats or beds as in this case are in the middle closer to the centre of gravity without trying to sound condescending and so one is not catapulted out of ones seat or bed on India's extremely bad roads. Further scrutiny revealed a bed with crumbs and not very clean with a ripped sheet. So I brushed it down and thought how long has it been since it was last changed, if ever and this is the deluxe bus. Shortly into the journey and throughout I was launched into midair and would come crashing back down with a thud. Some people pay thousands to go up in a plane and experience zero gravity. I thought, no, save your cash and just take a sleeper bus in India, and if you can put up with the bed bugs, noise and filth it's a bloody bargain at 3 quid for a whole 12 hours.
A few hours into the ride and still trying to perfect my levitation skills but to no avail I feel a poking in my side. I open the curtain (yes you do get a bit of privacy) I noticed 2 Indians with their feet on my bed. I looked at them with an evil look like from a scene from the exercist and said get your feet off my bed. They moved them slightly away and laughed but they were still on the edge. So I poked them and said fu**ing feet off. Their smirks dissipated into an embarrassed naughty school boy look and they laughed no more. (don't mess with or try the patience of the Boothman)
At about midnight and now itching, scratching and with severe back and neck ache I feel my bowels churning and knotting. I'm doubled up in agony and clenching my arse cheeks with the fear that if I let go for a second there could be an imminent explosion. This goes on until 3 in the morning and finally the bus stops at a small town in the middle of nowhere. So I get out of my flea pit and head for a toilet. I ask where the toilet is and am told "toilet open". I look around and realise he means piss and shit anywhere because everyone is. I find a slightly more private area through a partly opened gate drop my kecks (English slang for underpants) and create my own miniature monsoon downpour. (The eye of the needle is targeted with precision) This is a very much needed relief but then 2 pigs come snorting round my rear and feed on my offering.
Boarding the bus again I have to scramble over bodies and baggage sprawled all over the show and is like the crypton factor assault course.
I switch on my MP3 and much to my surprise is Ian Brown's track F.E.A.R (For Everything A Reason) mmmmmmm I wonder?
Location: Rat Temple, India
Today is Rat Temple day and the reason I'm here and made the arduous journey across Punjab and Rajasthan.
I find the local bus to take me the 20 or so miles out of town to the Temple of Rats. The Temle is free entrance but you have to pay 20 Rupees to take photo's. You also have to take your shoes off which is a normal practice in Temples but the though of all the rat piss and shit all over the place makes my skin crawl. Oh well I'm here now and step inside, reluctantly. To my alarm and I know, I should know what to expect, but they're there everywhere scurrying around. The devotees feed them milk etc and drink from the same bowl as the rats. I just think dirty bastards. Only in India and I think this place sums the country up.
I take a few pic's and a couple of vid's and make for a sharp exit. I can't believe I've come all this way to see revered vermin but it was an experience. Hope I don't have nighmares.
The return journey was a nightmare and again there was no seat available. They cram everyone in so tight and obviously have no health and safety laws. We get to a railway crossing and the gate is down. We wait and wait and wait. I ask if the train is coming today or tomorrow. They just say train coming. Forty minutes later we are still waiting and it's baking hot. You can smell BO, sweat, shit, bad breath, you name it it's all on this bus. So I push my way off and stand outside. Some people in a car ask me which country and start up a conversation. I ask them what the problem is and they tell me the train is coming. No, I think to myself, you're a clever lad. Is it tomorrow or in three more days I ask. They just laugh. Finally the train passes and it takes another 15 minutes to open the gates and then the traffic is all trying to push in and causes a congestion. So now we are held up even more by this selfish, no regard, idiosyncratic nonsense.
When I finally get off the bus I decide I need a very cold refreshing beer. I go back to the hotel to scrub my hands, I think I might have become an obsessive compulsive now and head for the backstreet bar. From a distance it looks like the shutters are down and true enough when I reach the entrance it's closed. I ask someone why the bar is closed and am told it's "dry day" today. Buggery bollocks I think to myself. It's Gandhi day and there's no alcohol anywhere. Then I remember I bought a bottle of rum in Amritsar. So I head over the road to a shop buy a bottle of coke and head to my room to pour a very large rum and coke where I toast Gandhi. Cheers Gandhi lad, hhhhaaaaaaarrrrrr. ;-)
Location: Amritsar to Bikaner., India
Very reluctantly had to get up at 3.30 this morning to catch the 4.40am bus to Ganganagar. I was heading for Bikaner the home to the Rat Temple, yes that's a Temple dedicated and very much apart of the Temple. (Sick I know, but I have to see) I must be sick. Please don't answer that ;-)
Anyroads, I jumped into a rickshaw near the Sukhdeep Guest House and told the man to take me to the bus station. Somehow I knew he was taking me somewhere else and this was quite true when I arrived at the train station. Bloody hell, well the words were much stronger and I only had 15 minutes to spare now and thought I'd got up at this God forsaken time for nothing. I see another rickshaw and ask him to take me to the bus station and to step on it. I arrive to find the bus packed so I have to stand. I ask them where I can put my rucksack and they just look vacant as usual. So I have to climb up the ladders at the back of the bus at 4.30 in the morning. It's a struggle and when I finally get it up there with no help there's now rope to tie it down with. I ask for a rope and all they do is point to their rist indicating that the bus is about to leave. So I just shout and stamp my feet and insist they get me a rope to tie my rucksack down with. This always works in India, they don't like confrontation. So now I'm on the bus standing and not sure when I'll get to Ganganagar. Ganganagar is just over the border into Rajasthan and if my Dad had been here, and he asked me where I was going he would have said, "where ya gan son" ? I would have replied I'm Gan to Ganganagar Dad. My dad doesn't say going, he's from Carlisle and says gan instead you see ;-) Anyway the bus periodically stops to pick up yet more people and I'm now sardined. Must be the journey from hell. Two and a half hours later I get a seat. The bus arrives in Ganganagar about 11.30am ish and I'm delighted to find out my next bus to Bikaner is at 12. No tourists come through Ganganagar and as soon as I step off the bus I'm surrounded by the locals. It seems like the whole town has gathered around me and just staring in disbelief, curiosity you tell me. This always amuses me but also makes me feel somewhat nervous and fidgety.
I book my ticket which is a whole 70 Rupees, less that 90 pence and buy some fruit and a snack from a local stand in the station. Everyone is watching me and wants to shake my hand. Eventually I board the bus to Bikaner and Ganganagar waves me off ;-)
The next leg of the journey takes me through desert towns and villages where I see camels pulling carts. This is a land that time forgot and the people are just existing and scratching a living. They live along side the road in bits of makeshift straw huts. It must be a hardy existance and wrather humbling which is something you constantly feel on the road. At around six I arrive at Bikaner find a cheap hotel called the Delux at less than 2 quid a night and find a bar down a backstreet for a much deserved cold beer. I'm easily pleased ;-)
Location: Amritsar, India
My rooftop room at Sukhdeep Guest House was quite nice with a view of the Golden Temple. Next door to my room three Sikhs were sharing of which two were brothers and the wife of the elder brother. They soon befriended me and wanted to know the usual, which country, are you married, why not, how old ? They thought I'm 23 ;-) They are half my age at 20 and 21.
The next day we went to the Golden Temple together and the questions became more personal. "How many sex you" etc ? Then one very odd question came from Sarwan, the brother wearing the turban. "Have you make woman cry when sex"? I asked him what he meant, do you mean tears of happiness or what ? He didn't understand and just said he had, and that his sex was very powerfull. I just said it's not all about fast power you know. But he didn't understand.
These people have a certain innocence and curiosity. You could say that they are stupid and with more than 60% illiterate they are. But they have no privacy and don't even understand the concept of it. I caught Sarwan the next morning peering through my bedroom window and he even told me later that he saw me in bed reading. huh. Just natural. They don't know any better and are too obsessed with their 33,000,000 Gods. Yes that's 33 million.
On the way to the Temple Sarwan held my hand which is perfectly normal in India between two men but I was quite uncomfortable with it. Maybe I need to loosen up more ;-)
After our day together they wanted me to come to their village and I really would have loved to but I just don't have the time now. I've got to be in Bombay by sunday morning.
When we finally parted they bought me a gift to remember them by which I thought was very sweet.
Maybe I can pass it on at Christmas to someone I don't like. ;-)
Location: Amritsar, India
Staying at the Sukhdeep Hotel ;-) close to the Sikh Golden Temple.
Click on the link below for much more information and photo's.
Last night I visited Attari, which is the border crossing into Pakistan. Every day at 5.30 in the afternoon both sides show their strength and might which I found to be rather amusing very amateurish and the usual chaoticness of India.
After the comedy show I went back to Amritsar which is about 20 miles or so and wandered round the Golden Temple.
Please support the Burmese struggle.
It only takes a minute to sign.
Another good web site to check out.
Arrived this afternoon in Amritsar Punjab close to the border with Pakistan.
More to follow.
Location: McLeod Ganj, India
McLeod Ganj - Shrouded in mist and mystery.
Day two in McLeod Ganj, I wake to a misty morn. After breakfast I head to the Tsuglagkhang Complex home to the 14th Dalai Lama. The complex is a central haven for Tibetan refugees living in exile, monks and pilgrim's. It also has a Tibetan museum displaying the horrors and struggles of the Tibetan people with the Chinese.
One story that horrified me was on the 22nd of November 1989, six nuns made a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa and were immediately arrested and taken to a detention centre. They were then interrogated for two months. They were hung from the ceiling and cigerettes were stubbed on their bodies. They were also beaton severely with metal wires and some of them had electric battons inserted in their private parts.
I watched a short documentary which also featured Chinese atrocities and an old Tibetan man who was stood behind me wept all through the film.
Many people fled Tibet and lost fingers, toes and even limbs due to frostbite crossing the Himalayan mountains into Nepal, Sikkim Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
As I walked down hill towards the main temple area I pass the usual souvenir stalls and to my surprise beggars with fingers and limbs missing. What is the Dalai Lama doing for these people?
Further on a young boy of about 15 asks me if I want my shoes cleaned. He is carrying a box over his shoulder and is quite typical in all of Asia. First he asks me which country, then it's what is your name, how long in India. He tells me his name is Dipak, he is from Rajasthan, his mother is dead and his father is an alcoholic and he must provide for his sister. He then asks me if I would buy him some food. I tell him I will buy him some food and he shakes my hand and thanks me. He then walks over to a shop/store and the shopkeeper produces two large packets of powdered milk and a jar of powdered milk. I ask how much and the shopkeeper shows me on his calculator 520 Rupees. This is about seven British pounds, so I tell him I'm not buying these but willing to take you to a restaurant. I now think it's a scam and just walk away.
At the monastery the monks are preparing a very large pan of free food for all.
Location: McLeod Ganj, India
SOAKED TO THE BONE.
Got off the bus in McLeod Ganj this morning at 6am from Manali feeling very tired, cold and wet :-( McLeod Ganj is home to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama or maybe a Scottish drug dealer.
The bus left Manali at 6.30 ish last night and rain leaked on me the entire journey. I was not a happy chappy. At about 4am we had to change bus and when I boarded noticed all the passengers were sitting in the aisle seats. I asked a girl if I could sit next to her by the window and she said yeah, but the seat is wet through. And she too was not a very happy Lassie. I also noticed this when she screamed at the drivers assistant when he was telling people to sit down, that he should try sitting there.
So I'm very tired, cold and wet. Happy travelling hey ;-)
Check out this web link below which was sent to me by my friend Rex in Guernsey. There's also a link you can click on of the train station in Mumbai (Bombay) India.
McLeod Ganj is perched on the surrounding mountain sides of a valley. The temperature at the moment is 23 degrees and the weather is misty but fair. The people are mainly Tibetan's in exile who follwed the Dalai Lama when he fled Tibet in 1959. It is also the government headquarters of Tibet here in north India.
My first impressions of the place is a laid back feel with many cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops and spiritual centres.
So again I'm just enjoying the cooler climes and the virtually non hassle.
I'm sat here in the internet cafe updating this blog with 2 robed monks sat either side of me.
Holy Buddah!.....maybe that should be.
PS One of the monks on my right which is a woman is getting quite stressed and frustrated with the computer playing up.
Maybe she should get a vibrator... ;-)
Ooooops she's just stood up and I think she just read what I've wrote. Hope she sees the funny side?