Saturday, 22 July 2017

7 Wonders of the Modern World – Taj Mahal, Agra – India

Taj Mahal, Agra …. Somehow the wonders of the modern world pales to the expectation that one desire from it. I guess it the disappointment is when everyone says it’s a masterpiece putting it up there on a pedestal that after more glorious bootlicking reviews, one’s expectation of being lifted to a higher plane of existence when visiting any of the 7 wonders could never be fulfilled. 

I enjoyed Agra in a way although the distance of places put me off a little. Distance is fine but being force to use only the preying touts of Tuk Tuks or camel or horse carriage cause me to hate India local transport a little more. 

I visited the Red Fort of course and Taj Mahal which was a structure of great artwork but then I also took a long walk into the real Agra … the back lane carefully hidden from the tourist path were the locals go about their daily lives …. It was a place where locals look at you as if you were a lost puppy, strayed off the main tourist road and into their back alley housing.

Not much to post on Agra and Taj Mahal … it was a place to just chill and enjoy the view

Taj Mahal - Tourist Everywhere

Travelled on : Sep 2015

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Buying Fine Arts Souvenir in Jaipur

After 2 hours I was finish with the Amber fort and headed for lunch. I passed by one handicraft shop and went in looking for Fine Rajasthan Painting on Plastic or as the cheaters call it Camel Bone. It has become an obsession for me now to get one for some reason …. So do regret not getting it in Udaipur where I saw the actual artist painting them. 

The shop did not have any for they only have carving. The shopkeeper thou was a nice guy who recommended me a place along the way back to the pink city. The store was nowhere anywhere where a tourist would go. Out of the city and surrounded by empty shops nearby. I had time and thought to give it a fair chance. Walking into the shop I saw they had what I wanted or rather had the stuff but not the quality of painting that I wanted. 

We only have paintings from Rs 1500 and above. All our stuff are good stuff. The word GOOD is over used in India …. I don’t think they understand the meaning of quality. 

He showed me some of the works which I rejected and the shopkeeper dove deeper into the stash till I finally see one that might just make do. 

This one of Rs 6000 

How I hate the intricate layers of India bargaining system. Nowadays my bargaining style seem to be insulting the shopkeeper in India …

I think its painting that is not done asleep at least but no way does it worth USD 100. Thank you and goodbye ....

Walked out and started walking back to town. 

Along the way I saw one more shop … a large one that had some of the fine painting displayed on the window. I decided to give it a try …. Why not …. I had time. … 

This shop had really good works. Not masterpiece such as the one I saw in Udaipur but these were good that the brush strokes did not seem sloppy. How much …. ??? Rs 3500 for the elephant Rs 4000 for the Kingfisher …. Painting on silk cheaper Rs 1000 or if you want painting on paper Rs 800. I contemplate it … keep looking, somehow considering the options and the worth of the painting. 

The Kingfisher Fine Painting on Synthetic Camel Bone - Bargain and Bought for Rs 1000
I have no money for that. 

No problem … ATM nearby …. 

No money means no budget …. You think ATM means unlimited money ???

The banter went on for an hour at lease with me looking as tormented as I could. I wonder now how I even had the patients to do it thinking back. Normally I just snap when the opening price is obviously crazy. 

What’s your budget the shop owner asked … Rs 1000 for the Kingfisher …. 

This is not possible …. 25% offer of the opening price is not possible. 

In a way in India we all know they mark up 100% to 300% for foreigner waiting for people to bargain at 50% of the price before finally settling at around 65% … they still gain a rip off of double the selling price. So in a way me asking for 25% of the original price seams just right. 

It dropped to 3500 as expected …. 

Let me think about it ….

Silk …. Silk painting is only Rs 1000 …. 

No I not interested in silk I told them …. 

More conversation …. 3000 final price … best price … 

I dun have money …. I need to think about it …. If I spend money now what about tomorrow ??

Arghh this is really nice painting, tormented me being wishy washy ……. Mmmm mmmmm no I need to think about it …. 

Give me your name card for the shop so I can find it tomorrow if I somehow manage to shuffle my budget …. 

Shopkeeper sends the boy to get name card but I could tell he was stalling … the boy took forever to get the name card over … 

Friend … ok …. Rs 2500 …. Really very cheap … you are lucky person …. ( am I really lucky ???) 

At this point I decided I will need time to contemplate my buying decision …. Proceed to walk out the door … 

Whoops I U-turn .. I forgot my water bottle …. 

Friend … Name me a price between 1000 ( my Budget) and 2000 ( Oh so it drop again to 2000 ) 

No I need to think … 

Just tell me a price … 

Why are you pressuring me ? I barked at him …. 

No pressure he said … and I scratch my head and grabbed my water bottle and started to walk out the door … I will think about it I said … 

OK 1000 …. And he started the packing process …. 

I was stunned … dumbfounded … what the f*ck just happened …. 

You sure ??? 

Yep yep … no problem … 1000 Kingfisher is yours … 

I dun want you to get into any trouble …. (Secretly thinking maybe I should not buy this now but can’t think of a way to escape tactfully)

No problem …. Rs 1000 please …

So I parted with Rs 1000 and gained a Rajasthan Fine Painting on synthetic Camel Bone. Why do I somehow feel that I lost instead of winning a grand bargain of 25% …. Only in India

Post Note: Nowhere else in India did I saw such quality and size of work in India at this price even after extensive bargaining …. The closes I got was Rs 1400 in Dalli Haat New Delhi. I am starting to think I got a good deal … either that or that somehow being a foreigner all these shopkeeper opens the same inflated price … oh well … only in India 

Travelled on : Sep 2015

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Pink City of Jaipur – India

Recalling Jaipur I was so tired I was not pleased when the hostel was located at a faraway location from any sorts of sights. Being set in a residential neighbourhood this hostel was really far away, no busses, no trains, no food.

The one thing that annoy me the most was the food. No food nearby. It took me about 2 hours walking round and round going in a bigger circle to a bigger circle till I finally found some resemblance of food. That was at least a 20 minute walk from the hostel.

The Pink Turban Hostel. Because the hostel was hot with lousy air conditioning (Although they were using a desert cooler and a huge one too) WIFI that barely works and a location that sucks big time I was not pleased with Jaipur. 

New Jaipur - The Pink City

A typical Street inside the Pink City - Jaipur

The Pink City Gate - Jaipur
I only did two things in Jaipur …. Visit the Pink City which was not really pink and not really pretty thou it was a walk like any other walk though India big cities. Streets dedicated to Sari, streets dedicated to jewellery, streets dedicated to chapatti …. You get the idea … the only new thing I saw was a street that was dedicated to Marble carving. That was a sight to see but any stuff worthy of spending Rupee was too big to carry. 

I got persuaded by some people from the hostel that I should and must visit the actual Jaipur which was far far away and has a famous fort call the Amber Fort. I though the Pink City was the old city of Jaipur but apparently it was the new Jaipur.  

So I made my way … rickshaw was draining my funds in Jaipur and that did not even get me to my destination and I had to take a bus. Amber fort thou was quite a worthwhile visit, grand and ever charming. Touts and friendly Indian guides will pester you to get a guide …. It’s not worth visiting without a guide they would say, you will be wasting your money …. Rs 200 rupee for a foreigner entrance ….

I find it f*cking rude of Indians who seems to think they, and when I say they I mean every f*cking single individual with different minds and idea whom seems to think they are all knowing and all wise. They give the off air vibe that you tourist don’t know what you are doing …. Follow me I will make your trip memorable till I part you with your money and then you will feel cheated like a Indian. 

I went in without a guide …. Read the tablets information post every now and then and just went nook and corner exploring …. One of the security guard saw me wandering everywhere and asked me to follow ….

He could not speak much English but was kind enough to show me all the hidden rooms of the fort and best view of the place such as hidden staircase that gives amazing view upstairs. Just when I was starting to profoundly hate Indians …. This chap alters my narrowing view of India …. 

Amber Fort - Jaipur

Amber Fort - Jaipur

Amber Fort - Jaipur

Amber Fort - Jaipur

Amber Fort - Jaipur
Its people … Its people …. Just that most Indians are cheats …. At least at tourist places.

Travelled on : Sep 2015

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

More Tuk Tuk Stories – I’m an Honest Tuk Tuk Driver in India

India is really taking that last mile of travelling out of me. I got to Jaipur and before getting off the bus I could see the faces of the tuk tuk drivers all looking in and pointing to the one tourist in the bus which was me. Step off and immediately I was flanked by these disgusting creatures. I lost my calm …. I despise them really. 

Outer District of Jaipur - India
Once I got my bag it was time to negotiate but even just a short 3 hours ride form Pushkar and I was not in the mood. How much to Pink Turban Hostel …. The standard diversion tactics and Indian playwrights came alive. I was not in the mood and with this one guy who thinks India is great and keep asking why in a obtrusive manor, I really lost my calm. 

How much to Pink Turban Hostel …. If you don’t know you can get loss … 

I know the way, he finally admitted … 120 rupees ….. 

60 rupees I said 

Not possible sir … 100 rupees at lease … 

60 rupees … Yes or No … stop wasting my time … 


Starts walking 


Shouts for another tuk tuk

Ok 60 …. 

I got in and it was two drivers … one to drive and one to distract you …. First time India? … first time Jaipur? Why Pink Turban … so far from city … many good place in Pink City nearby …. WHY WHY WHY ….

I fucking hate India …. All cheats …. 

No cheat in Jaipur … all honest people here …. 

Everyone says that I told him, and all the same story. 

I Honest man I dun like lie, give me a gift from your country, Its not possible for 60 rupee 80 please …. 

I promiss I swear upon my f*cking dead honour ….. shut up and drive me to Pink Turban …. 

Stuck in traffic the guy started yelling to another Tuk Tuk Driver next door in Hindi ….. after a while …. OK you take bag and go with him … he bring you to Pink Turban … 

60 rupee ??? 

I got the f*cking head wobble …. Got out and the bastards zoom away … 60 rupees I asked the new bastard and he said 100 rupee … 

Those guys are cheats I am honest the new tuk tuk driver said …. 

F*cking bastards … 

I decided I will walk to pink turban …. But half way through I gave up when a Tuk Tuk with a smile pulled over 40 minutes later. 40 minutes’ walk managed to calm me down and this time I negotiate without the hostility and settle at a price of 70 rupee …. 

Welcome to Jaipur … the new new tuk tuk driver said ...

I hate this place already.

Traveled on : Sep 2015

Monday, 17 July 2017

Holy Town of Brahma – Pushkar India

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Pushkar was a holy town. Whenever I think of holy town in India I think of Varanasi and its craziness yet peaceful nature. In a way Pushkar resembles that but in a much much smaller scale.

I ended up in the Moonlight hotel recommended by Raj in Udaipur and true enough a rare and honest guesthouse owner. Offering rate was 250 rupee a night for the cheapest room which was really good and went up as the room gets better. I took the cheapest of course. 

Two guys I met in Pushkar …. Andres and Edward. Andres was from Columbia and Edward was from Germany. These two was the one I hang out the most exchanging stories on the rooftop while smoking cigs. 

I ended up reciting the story of Brahma quite a few times to whomever I met. Most of them do not know the story Brahma but ended up in Pushkar based on lonely planet recommendation. It’s a holy city …. Hence travellers goes there without knowing the story. 

Pushkar was a nice town …. A small lake in the centre that could be walk around in 20 minutes was the scared lake that Brahma created. Devoted Hindu comes here to take a bath just like in Varanasi but less intense. The single street around the lake was plied with tourist shops selling all kinds of food and handicraft. 

Holy City of Pushkar - India

I ended up staying three night in Pushkar despite not having much to do here. Everyday was sort of a same routine …. Walk around and head back for some sleep and read comics. The last full day I decided I must see the Brahma temple … it’s was the reason I came anyway.

I was so lazy in Pushkar that at one point I could not have been bothered if I even miss going to that temple. Thinking back maybe it was the force of Shiva at work preventing me from developing deep interest in visiting the temple. 

Dumping everything in the hotel including shoes I head out with Edward to the temple …. Line was long but ever moving and still not as crowded as the Kali temple in Kolkata. Not too bad I thought and nearing the start point of the steps a flower vendor called out to us ….

Hello Hello ….. Eh Hello … 

Flower for Brahma ….

No thanks …. 

No respect Brahma ….. 

By now I know how to give back a curse when I see fit …. 

You no respect Brahma I retorted back ….

Meekly he said no …. I respect Brahma, but he did not try to force sell his flower again. 

In we went and round the inner circle following the flow of Hindu tourist. The outside says no camera is allowed but once inside, it was the local Indian tourist that pops out the camera phones and snapped away. I smiled as I know enough about Hindu religion now that respect meaning is not the same as the western culture assume. Respect is doing the devoted worship and keeping their god chant in mind always …. The story had nothing about cameras as 4000 years ago there was no such things.

Me and Edward sat inside the temple for a while in a quiet corner while I relate all the stories I know about Brahma and the Hindu Culture …. He was very surprise but was very grateful for the knowledge that he now had a deeper understanding of Pushkar. 

Pushkar was a nice rest but it was time to move on to Jaipur … 

This time I took the tourist bus which was 200 rupee but jam packed with people and never on time …. The boy at the travel agency which I asked when is my bus coming after an hour kept saying 15 minute later …. Or with the calming sit down hand sign and mouthing wait wait. While his friends around all watch the internet and some sort of youtube channel which I suspect contain as much nudity they could find I was ignored to wonder if I was even going to get out of Pushkar …. I got angry … gave him my piece of mind about the absurdness of what was going on, only to get the standard reply ….

*GRIN* This is India …

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Travelling by Local Government Bus from Jodhpur to Pushkar – India

I had time to check for the local suburban government bus so I decided to take it. The official bus stand was filled with people …. The real India! Not the tourist bus which is normally empty but leave you waiting for hours for the bus and when it arrive it is packed to the brim like sardines. No the government bus was a rackety bus that looks old, painted in blue with all the Hindi markings of where it was going.

Bus stand had ticket counters as well to sell tickets to wherever you are going but the catch is they would only sell the ticket once the bus arrived. No advance reservation allowed. Bus stand are only in Hindi for some reason and no English board nor announcement can be heard. This makes it harder for one to navigate the Indian bus system

Local Government Bus in India
Nothing a few questions can’t help answer and I found that the bus departs at 9 am in the morning. I have realized that information in India is always never as it is ….. it’s always approximate …. But if you do not head the information provided and lost track of time, miss of bus or unfortunate event is your fault entirely.

Research done a day earlier I was ready for a local adventure

Bus Station in Jodhpur
The next day I arrive at 815 am early to buy the bus ticket only to be told by the ticket booth that the bus to Pushkar departs at 1030 am …. I was to wait around to buy the ticket at 930 when the bus arrive. F*ck this shit and I walk over to the next counter and ask for a ticket to Ajmer instead. I knew Ajmer had bus almost every half hour and from Ajmer to Pushkar it was only a very short journey anyway ….

Ticket Booth in Jodhpur Bus Station - India

I hate waiting … especially in India where waiting can be infinite. Most displeasure shown would result in a reply with a big grin “This is India” 

So I got the bus to Ajmer for 185 rupee which left half an hour later and then at Ajmer after dodging all the auto rickshaw telling them I have no money since I arrive using a government bus. A few more asking around and I found the government bus to Pushkar and sat in the bus waiting for the worst fee and turn out it only cost 14 rupee from Ajmer to Pushkar …. Hooray .. I did the right choice and manage to save time and also money.


Friday, 30 June 2017

Quick Visit in Jodhpur - The Blue City of India

Jodhpur the blue city was not as amazing as I thought I would be. Narrow streets and zig zaggy roads through dusty and mysterious alleys wandering and I found nothing but the common Indian people. Pretty boring. Then again it was a nice change of pace instead of people hassling you all the time to buy something.

Jodhpur The Blue City - India

Inside the Zig Zaggy Roads of Jodhpur

Jodhpur Blue Painted Buildings
I mostly went exploring with another English guy (Ned) which stayed at the same hostel. We walked quite far away from the tourist area and nearly ended up near the old outer walls. Into those streets children were playing doing their own thing till they saw a white boy and a yellow boy. We gathered a fan club …. And it was fun till one of the boy decided it would be fun as well to ask for money. 

Time for an Indian Escape Run …. Still it was fun with those kids laughing and mischievous all the time 

There is only one main attraction in Jodhpur and that was the stunning fort structure sitting above the city and by keeping it in sight we could navigate the city and know where we were all the time. Entrance to the fort was expensive by Indian standards at 500 rupee a visit but it included an audio guide which gave fantastic information causing me to be stuck at the fort for nearly 3 hours. 

Jodhpur Fort

Jodhpur Fort Entrance

Jodhpur Fort

Jodhpur Fort

Opium Set at Jodhpur Fort

Fine Arts inside Jodhpur Fort

The walls inside Jodhpur Fort
The blue city was also not really that blue. Only patches of houses were blue and not every single corner. Walking among them one would see the occasional all blue house to snap a picture but only at the high point of the fort one could see all the patches of blue together and imagine that the city was surrounded by water instead of desert. 

Outer Edge of the Old Wall - Jodhpur

It was a nice city Jodhpur but with the heat it was not a nice place to hang around too long.

Travelled on : Aug 2015

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

More Tuk Tuk Barganing Stories - Jodhpur

Jodhpur. I arrived late in the afternoon around 3pm, dropped off by the bus again to a hoard of autorickshaw vulture. Seams the bus has a trend of leaving people at last stop nowhere near the city but somewhere in between and these rickshaw drivers knew that they would have business everytime a bus arrive. Even worst when they spot a foreigner like me their eyes lights up like fireworks.

This time I was prepared although hungry I knew where the hostel was around 3km from where I was dropped off. Google map was marked and I had leverage of daytime with me. 

Blur City of Jodhpur - India
How much to Zostel …. (Zostel is a chain Hostel in Rajasthan State in India) 

I have better hotel he said … good room, restaurant, view bla bla bla … 

I have booking … how much to Zostel …. 

150 rupee sir … very good price 

NO !

It is very far sir … 150 rupee is a good price 

NO …. shaking my head Indian style now ....

How much ? 

NO .... shaking my head and laughing like a crazy person

Ok 120 rupee come lets go 

NO … I know where the hostel is … its only 3km that way ….

OK best price 80 rupee ….

Nope …. No way …. I would pay at most 30 to 40 rupee only

Impossible sir …. 80 is the minimum … its IMPOSSIBLE to be lower than that ….

Ok since its impossible I will walk …. ( I buckle up my backpack and started walking )

Wait wait …. Ok sir … Indian price … 50 rupee … this is Indian price … 

NO …. Dun waste my time … I’ll walk …. ( All the while thinking how could the impossible 80 rupee became 50 rupee ) 

10 steps later

OK come … 

40 rupee ??

Yes yes .. come 

Somehow I feel I have won … but also wondering if I could have gotten it cheaper …. 

Traveled on : Aug 2015

Sunday, 25 June 2017

The Fine Arts in Udaipur

Udaipur was a pleasant surprises. The bus stopped us way way far away from the centre and I had to get a rickshaw to Zostel Udaipur …. Game face time to get it done and after hard bargaining I got it for 60 rupee. It was pretty far and judging by the ride it would have took me 2 hours walking.

Zostel was closed … apparently the place had some water maintenance issue as well as electric current running in the water line. No shit. They recommended Shiva Guesthouse which was just round the corner. Walking into the guesthouse it was empty … no one home …. I decided to wait and a minute later a guy appear from the toilet.

Raj was the owner of the guesthouse and his opening price was 300 rupees for a night. I was genuinely surprised. It is quite rare that in India one encounters an honest businessman. I did not bother to bargain the price and just had a look at the room before agreeing to it. The place was slightly run down but the room was clean and there was hot water and wifi. That was all I need really plus it had a beautiful view of Udaipur lake and palace from its rooftop restaurant (which was close). I was the only guest there the entire 4 days.

Palace in the Center of the Lay of Udaipur
Udaipur was a charming city one of those few places in India where one could just laze back and chill out for a few days. Places after palaces all around with good amenities. Laundry services everywhere, food was abundant and good in taste and price.

Lovely View of Udaipur

Rajasthan Food in Udaipur - India

Markets were for the tourist but not at an exorbitant rate, instead it was better for tourist to shop at the tourist market. Usual market in India is spice market, jewellery market or sari market, things that you see a lot but would not really buy them.

Tourist market means there were lots of handicraft items and in Udaipur it was pretty good quality. It was the best place to get fine miniature paintings and even stone carvings or wood carvings. The variety was abundant and the craftsmanship was refine. I spend a lot of time in many shops in Udaipur looking at handicraft but only bought one Ganesha carving made of jade marble for only 200 rupee. It was a steal.

Paintings Everywhere in Udaipur Building

Painting Everywhere in Udaipur
The second thing I was looking for was fine miniature painting of RadhaKrishna …. There was many but the artist side of me became a critique and rejected most of them. At one of the shop, I lingered longer and when he realized I was looking at the art piece and rejecting them because of the lack of quality (it was already damn good but I was very insistent on finding that perfect one) he offered to show me the special collection.

Special collection was taken from a safe box and boy it was a work of art. I probably can’t afford this I said … I have never asked for a price so far … and he agreed I could not afford it, never even bother telling me the price. It’s not for sale anyway he said.

The place was ART Centre 39 Lal Ghat Udaipur – 9587229030

Piece after piece he took out and I marvel at the quality of the fine art. It was also rare for a shop owner to not mention any of the price. How much is this one I finally asked …..

That one is done by a professor …. not for sale ….

I know but how much is it worth I said ….. 70000 rupees

Some other piece he showed me was of good quality, much better than any that was on display in the shop but never as good as the professors work …..

This is good but not as good I said …

With a smile …. He said it was the work of a teacher level …. So apparently there is three levels in art. An artist then a teacher and finally a professor. He even showed me one that was drawn by his grandfather, a family heirloom and a few miniature that was drawn by him himself.

Why don’t you show this I asked …. All your paintings in the shop is nowhere close to the quality and refine in term of storytelling as these that you are showing me now from the safe ….

He said if these pieces were shown people would take photos and then try to copy them. Plus it’s too expensive anyway that no one would buy them …. Only those who value the work would pay for it so there is no point putting it out for display.

I left after nearly an hour of looking at his collection and chatting with him. Never once did he try to sell me something knowing that the inferior artwork did not interest me and the good ones were beyond my wallet ability. Only regret is that I could not take a photo to post in the blog and show the world.

Apart from the lake palace in Udaipur and a few museum that everyone visits and take a walk around the old city there was one other charm that was rare in India. They had a cultural performance show every night at Bhangali Ki Haveli where for a donation of 100 rupees one could see the vast cultural heritage life show for an hour.

The Building Outside to the Heritage Show - Udaipur
The performance was authentic Rajasthan dying art and culture from singing, dancing, puppet show and the grand finally of a women balancing pots on her head while dancing. When I say pots I means loads of pots …. In fact the pots at final stack of 11 pieces were taller than the woman that was dancing.

Truly a dying art for it was develop by women in the west of Rajasthan whom needed to walk very far to collect water and by stacking them and balancing them delicately on the head they would not have to made so many a trip. The woman whom performed the dance was an elderly women …. It takes years before one can even stack the pots let alone dance with it.

Udaipur Grand Temple



Traveled  on : Aug 2015

Monday, 19 June 2017

Ahmedabad …

Ahmedabad was a quick stop walk and run away for me. Worst thing was that it was moms birthday the day I arrived and after the usual tuk tuk bashing, hotel hunting and talking down to and making sure it was affordable within budget and still has free wifi if only in the lobby, I still could not send a happy birthday message to mom because social media is blocked in Ahmedabad. 

Apparently the state of Gujarat was in turmoil when I visited back in Aug 2015 due to some political issue of quota that the people wants the government to give them. The turmoil was so bad there was some riots and then curfew and lastly control of media hence the social media lockdown. Walking around and looking at the place during the day was alright and seems like a peaceful place but asking recommendation of what to do at night and the only answer is bed … 

You are not allowed to walk around at night ... There is a CURFEW … a pause and a momentary thought later the hotel receptionist adds … oh the curfew was lifted YESTERDAY … still I advise you to stay inside at night … I was there just a day after the curfew was lifted apparently…. Things was still not so good but outside in the web reports were such like a peaceful protest. 

Peaceful or not peaceful, it was time to quickly get Ahmedabad done and move on as I did not want to get stuck for no good reason. 

The city of Ahmedabad is huge but not much tourist attraction beyond a few sights. A few mosque here and there which was lovely for I was there alone visiting and for once no touts nor tourist within the foray. I saw one person in the mosque which was there for a prayer and I took my kneeling position to blend in while admiring the serenity of the place.

Inside of The Old Mosque of Ahmedabad
There was a lot of walking for me and lots of shops was closed …. Was it because of the Riot or because I was walking on a Sunday, I had no idea but it was a weird void of the people bustle that one get so used to in India. 

Ahmedabad Town
Since I figure out the taxi meter scam I was now within budget to travel further and see more using the tuk tuk.

Ghandi Holy Grail is here as well in Ahmedabad … I knew this from good ol KTan hence the stop in Ahmedabad for a visit. Ghandi house or ashram where he live with the community folks is in Ahmedabad. Irony that the holy grail of Ghandi where a great movement of non-violence took the world with such force was now reduce to the same as everyone else. 

Entrance to Gandhi Ashram

Gandhi Ashram - House in Ahmedabad
In the house was plain and simple, lots of historical timeline and newspaper clipping were put up in boards describing the greatness or the plainness of Ghandi everyday life. In a way reading the interesting extract of Ghandi without all the grandeur of revolution, seams to me that Ghandi was a very very eccentric man …

The thing he does makes no sense and yet he does them if to just prove a point that only he created the argument in the beginning. Safe to say … I would not be picking up any Ghandi book anytime soon …. 

The ashram was peaceful, no beggers no touts and even the taxi drivers outside was politely waiting for you to approach them instead of in your face … come come …. I can say Ahmedabad will be forgotten for it did not leave any impact on me.

I left the next day early morning catching a bus to Udaipur.

Friday, 26 May 2017

One eventually get cheated in India …. Its only a matter of time.

I was on the journey to Ahmedabad from Mumbai … late in the evening I was headed to the bus stand for an overnight bus ride. Taking a walk in the rain to the bus waiting point I finally used the poncho I bought in Peru. The so called bus stop was a small little shack of a travel agency. I was semi shocked I guess for I was not used to the bus system in India but then again what the hell …. 

The agency was a man just minding his own business … everyone just wait at the road looking at the massive traffic jam and hoping a bus would pull up. None of the bus pulled up and sometimes you see one person stops a bus for a second before hopping on. 

Luckily the bus I was going on was late …. I manage to decipher the bus code system in time … else I would have missed the bus and no one to help me with it. The bus all had a name written on the top of the bus like a dark screen and it is plastered big in bright colours so one can spot it a mile away even at night. The ticket gives the name of the bus … so all those people waiting by the road was looking out for busses with the right name …. 

Fortunately I was looking too and not waiting inside the crappy travel agent shack and when the bus did come I had to flag it and ran after it … I was the only boarding that bus from that junction. The travel agent did nothing …. If I did not see the bus I would have missed it and left holding a useless ticket and with no place to stay the night. 

Ok so I was in the bus now … got my sleeper bunk and it was air-con …. A quick look and no toilet on the bus … this was not South America ….. I am regretting the bus ride already. No sheets too … I so miss AC class on the train …. And no blanket nor pillow …. Air-con was freaking cold too … it now remind me of the greyhound bus in USA …. Luckily I pinched the sheets from the train … it was now my thin sheet of blanket which was all it needed to keep my body heat with me.

The bumbs, the horn, the sudden swaying … the bus was trying his best to get out of the Mumbai traffic and it was almost driving me sick …. Motion sick …. I hate the bus already

Once we were out and on the road it was not that bad thou ….. stolen sheet for a blanket, a toilet break every 4 hours and but then early morning and I got jerk woken up by a splash of dripping cold wet air con water leaking from the overhead vents. I hate the bus. 

Reached Ahmedabad and guess what .. the bus chucks me out outside the city … I so miss the train now …. A bit slower is still better than a bus. Then again the bus was not even faster than the train … it took 12 hours, 2 hours longer than the train allocated time … f*ckers …. Rs 1700 too.

This is where the cheating started …

When the bus spits me out, vultures of Auto-rickshaw drivers with big grins was fighting to see who can eat the delicious yellow man. I was in the outskirts of the city …. Nothing nearby to help me get to the city …. Rickshaw is all there is …. And they know it ….

I settle for the first guy who spoke …. What was I to do anyway …. Plus when I asked how much he said meter …. Fishy but then again I really did not have a choice …. And after a long journey decision making aren’t that good anymore. Inspecting the meter it was those mechanical distance counter like one normally see on a car or motorbike. Rigged to show the distance in numbers …. I was guessing it was tuned differently to show the price of the journey, …. Not electronic anyway so how bad could it be ….

He took me to where I wanted to go approximately since I had no idea where I was going, anywhere other than the area near the train station and the sights … Bandra colony …. Another light up glint in his eyes as he realized I dun have a hotel booking and he brought me to the first recommendation … good hotel he said ….. 

How Much I asked the hotel manager …

Rs 2000 …..

No …. 

As the hotel manager tries to desperately cling to his only customer, the price actually drop till Rs1200 …. F*ckers …

The second hotel was much better …. They had a board and it was clearly stated Rs 700 for a night in non – ac …. I could do with that and settle on it. 

Time to pay the rickshaw driver …. The meter had jumped till 467 …I thought it was a long ride but it was still high …. I gave him 500 and left it at there and he left ….. Later chit chatting with the hotel desk guy, the hotel guy told me it was a little high … or rather very high …. 

How does one charge with the meters anyway in Ahmedabad I asked …. 

The meter was this round thing at the side of the cab …. But then that was not the meter but the point counter based on the kilometres travelled …. Then one has to ask the rickshaw driver for the price chart … you then convert the points to the price in Rs ….

The Auto-Rickshaw Meter in Ahmedabad
Going on other rickshaws with this knowledge visiting sights in Ahmedabad I studied one … and it was about 250 which was the fee I was soppose to pay the first ride … that guy got me I guess …. Sooner or later you get caught in their scheme … 

Everyone gets cheated in India sooner or later …

Travelled on : Aug 2015

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Exploring the Slums in Bombay – Mumbai

I decided to spend a day on a paid walking tour …. Priced at Rs 500 but with tips it came to Rs 600. It was not the usual kind of walking tour for it was a walking tour into the slums of Dharavi at the heart of Mumbai city India. It was also one of the scenes from the famous movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ which I have not seen. 

The tour was unique for, slum tours was done by many tour operators made of independent people trying to earn a buck but I went with this organization recommended by the hostel called Reality Tour. It was a NGO …. I dunnu how much I trust NGO nowadays for it just means so many things and nothing sometimes. 

They claimed that 80% of their nett profit after tax is given back to the slums in the form of community education and help program. Nett profit as I heard it means they still make a profit. Big companies as far as I know takes a lot of salary and only produce a small nett profit in the end of the year. Still no point judging I guess. 

We were told to get to Mahim Train station and locate this Café where the guide would meet us. We were also warned that some random strangers might pose as the company and we were to look out for the actual guide which should be wearing a company t-shirt. True enough a guy in plain white shirt tried to pass off as the company but Zack (from England but is a mix race of British and Thai) decided to spend international call to get the hostel guy to find us the right guide. The guide came in good uniform and we were set on our way.

There is so many lechers in India 

The tour took us into the slum which was a misconception of the name explained the guide. Slums means people who occupy government land without permission. That’s all. So a slum is technically a free place to stay. Reality tour mission was to bust the misconception of slums and to show people the actual reality to the world. Slum has a very negative word and is not really what it describe when we see it. 

The slum was quite organized. There was heavy industrial area which was basically hazardous to anyone who works there. Mainly on recycling they showed us a few of them. The production of plastic crushers in factories, homemade with steel and welding’s and simple motorized mechanism to actually crushing all kinds of plastic they could find, melting and dyeing them to form plastic pallets before it was sold to big factories to be made into new plastic products. 

Recycling of paint cans … stripping of paint, marks, logo and labels and make new for reuse and after a few times of recycling paint cans the cans themselves is being cut and bend and used as sheets for building more slum houses.

They say there is no waste in Dharavi. 

The most highly paid work was the aluminium recycling … here they collect all the aluminium cans and melt them in a small room which is filled with toxic fumes and chimneys that pump out who knows what like a train hopper. Melted and formed into pure aluminium bricks they are then sold to big factories who use them to make new product. 

These industries only survive because of cheap labour …. Labours was intensive in sorting and making all these rubbish pure enough for the factory to use. If it were sorted before recycling factories would have ran the job more efficiently and cheaper and much safer but then most people heap their rubbish together in 3rd world country. 

Then the next industry was located further away from the heavy one … the non-hazardous to health sits between the hazard and the residential area of the slums. There was large industrial no food inspection bakery which supplies puff to all of India … 

*Gasps*… I probably ate some of those somewhere in India

Then there was the leather factory, wood work and even hand rolled manufactured papadam by household wife as part time job.

The residential sits at the far end far away as possible from the toxic hazard and these are a clusterfuck of house shacks, string and woven so close together that you have to kiss someone if he was coming from the opposite direction. They are not poor thou …. A keen eye will notice the hi tech plasma TV in the small house of 5 by 5, computers, and a hoard of satellite dishes which supply endless TV channels to the slums. 

It was free land ….. if you stay there long enough it will be yours …. 

Interestingly no one pester us for money … they have pride here in the slums …. Hard work drive them but they have the pride of one who knows he is better than a beggar. 

Note : No photos in the slums ... coz some stuff seriously is against health codes ...
Travelled on : Aug 2015

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

A short stop in Mumbai

Mumbai is the new name …. While the old one rings with Bombay during the British colony. Hence Mumbai was one of the more civilized city in India that have seen with more historical buildings and monuments that is not related to temples and palaces.

Colonial Buildings in Mumbai
Truth be told, Mumbai was not attractive enough to hold me more than two night there. I had to move on quick for in a way I felt that Mumbai was a standard metropolitan city …. I got the vibe that it was a type of city where if you know friends to go crazy with, it could be a beautiful adventure behind closed doors but alas I was not patient enough to do it alone.
Beach by Mumbai
Still this city has its own charm in India … for one, it’s a city next to a beach facing west … how many cities could you catch a beautiful sunset everyday … I just love those kind of cities … nothing like a stroll along the beach after a long day seeing the sunset. Sentimental wise I was not alone and many locals go on walks by the city beach romantically

Romantic is also something you dun see often in India as well. Mumbai was one place where you could see girls of India come out from home leisurely. I have to say, I kinda like the view here in Mumbai.

Port Gate where the British Set Sail Leaving India
The other main attraction was the slums all around Mumbai …. The slums on its own is worthy of a single post which I will have to do next after this lazy post

Not many hostels in Mumbai and the one I stayed was actually a house. Thing is about India and addresses … the numbers does not line up in any order … number 1 house and number 2 house can be on two far end side of the street and still has the same street name … there is no logic … best was to ask for direction and hopefully don’t get a random pointy finger which could also mean go away.

The old town Mumbai or better known as Bombay looked very much like London if you can ignore certain parts and imagine certain parts. It’s a beautiful city, very business-like and a city where you will hear locals speak English like it was their native tongue to each other.

Most Expensive Hotel in Mumbai .... I think
Traveled on  : Aug 2015

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Hyderabad – The old Mughlai Empire City

If not for the change of plans and the recommendations by Ktan and his family I would have never go there and would have probably took a long distance train to get to Mumbai. The stop was surprising

Build by the old Mughlai Empire the city of Hyderabad can be easily mistaken as a city in the Middle East. Not that I have ever been there before other than Istanbul, but one can see a striking difference whereby mosque and Islamic architecture covers the city more than any other religion. Seeing the city thou is not as easy like taking a walk and just discovering it. The city is big and the sights are located far apart. 

Charminar - Hyderabad, India

First day after checking into the first hotel the auto rickshaw brought me to for Rs800 a night, I was surprised I accepted so easily for normally I reject the first place regardless of offer and condition just to check out the second one …. In a way I guess it was the first honest auto rickshaw I encountered in India … he only charged me Rs 120 for a long ride from Secundebad to Hyderabad …

I later found out that was a very fair price for most auto rickshaw was trying to rip me off to about Rs 300 for the same distance ride in Hyderabad. I trusted the first auto rickshaw guy for some reason I could not comprehend and the hotel he recommended was a good place, quiet clean with wifi …. Non-ac for 800 and ac for 1000 …. I caught a running nose from the AC 3 train so I decided to forgo the AC and take the cheaper 800 a night

Check in and out I went exploring, or more like exploring while looking for food. The first place I wanted to visit was the Falaknuma Palace …. Somehow I also started writing down the places I wanted to go on a piece of paper and just used them to show to the taxi drivers and yet I had no clue where it was in Hyderabad …. 

350 ….. f*ck it …. Walk away …. Offer the new devious auto rickshaw driver said …. And I said meter …. 

Meter plus 20 ….. ok fair enough … 

The ride was nearly 20 km away …. And the meter jumped like it was rigged and bounce up to 270 …. I gave up 300 at the entrance of Falaknuma Palace only to find out that it is not accessible to public as it has been privatized to be a luxury hotel ….…. 300 for nothing. 

Roasted Chicken Factory
I decided to walk back … a long walk to find food along the way and to have a look wandering around lost in Hyderabad looking and seeing whatever that comes by. Most of it was dusty shops and boring daily lives that would not register in my head but I finally found a restaurant after 1 hour of walking and they sold the famous Hyderabad Dum biryani …. I have to say the Biryani is Hyderabad is something special. So special that it ruin all the other Briyani I had in India … 

The best Briyani in India - Hyderabad Dum Briyani

I could say that Dum Briyani is the best Briyani I have ever eaten 

More walking to burn off the over eating of Biryani, I found the first monument …. Mecca Mosque … a large pilgrim site where a few bricks from Mecca was brought to build the mosque … no short pants allowed inside and I walk by to see the next door monument Charminar ….

Mecca Mosque - Hyderabad, India
This was the old city of Hyderabad I later understood … most people do not venture beyond these streets which was packed with shopping goodies of all shinny kind. Jewellery, sari, of the sorts and pearls …. Hyderabad was apparently famous for making pearls.

Hyderabad - India
End of the day after walking another long two hours back to the hotel and I rested binge on the free TV they had which showed a lot of rubbish channels in English …. 

Day 2 was spent exploring only one place … Golconda Fort … built by the sultan of Mughlai it was a huge fort beautifully preserved and took me 2 hours just to explore part of it. The view from the top gave Hyderabad a different perspective.

The second item of the day Qutb Shahi Tombs could be seen from the top of the fort and it was a beautiful sight in the city of Hyderabad …. I decided seeing it from afar was enough and skipped going there … only one item that day and it was enough for the soul. 

Golconda Fort - Hyderabad

Golconda Fort - Hyderabad

Hyderabad View from top of Golconda Fort

Hyderabad View from top of Golconda Fort - India

Last day was spend wasting away as I had to burn time till I catch the train at 8pm. Morning temple visit to the Birla Mandir temple which was build with pure white marble was lovely. View of the lake was good but alas no cameras nor phones were allowed while going into and around the temple. The local said this was a new thing …. Not an old temple but given time it would be a prominent landmark for a tourist attraction. 

I also manage to find the all elusive Shiva Puran book at the temple souvenir store … so it was worth going to the temple even if the book was overly price at RS 200.

Then a slow walk to the public gardens I visited the State Archaeology museum. Have to say I was amazed how much time I manage to burn in that museum. 

Last stop was Salar Jung Museum … but when I arrived and saw the price tag to enter which was Rs 500 I decided it was not worth going in and headed for KFC for a drink and then after McD for another drink ….. it was time to head to the train station for Mumbai …. AC 2 this time … getting higher and higher up in class …. So excited but it was not much different from AC 3 only with a drawn curtain to give some added privacy.

AC2 Train in India