Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Week 14 - 16 Pokaraha, Bandipur, Old Delhi, Bangkok


Another visit to Pokarah to pick up my bag after rafting, end up staying longer than I wanted. Pokarah is like a Sunday afternoon. I go fishing with the motel owner, I stayed with him the last time, he tells me many interesting stories on our trip. He tells me of land he has bought for foreign friends and wives that he has found for others, he tells me of his french friend who is very happy with his two wives! Monogamy is now illegal in Nepal. He tells me of his friend who sunk to the lake floor a week ago and has not been found. He tells me of a Buddhist friend he helped build a house but now the Buddhist refuses to be his friend because he catches fish, says he he doesn't want the devil in his house! He tells me of a couple in their 20s who committed joint suicide by tieing a rock round their waist, they were from different castes and one family refused marriage.

I usually head left into town but this day I decide to head left towards the mountain of Serangkot (spelling?) and things turn a little twilight. I pass a German man who is dressed in pyjamas and is off his head speaking to himself. I get offered mushrooms all along the road. A strangely aggressive man tries to sell me mushrooms and weed, when I decline and walk away he tries one last time to sell me something and asks me if I would like a Nepali marriage! No thank you sir, marriage is far from my mind, although by Nepali standards I should have been married for 8 years and have 3 kids by now. Everyone enquires about your marital status, it seams quite popular for people to come to Nepal to find a bride.

Journey from Pokaraha to Bandipur
I get this large Jeep to Bandipur from a nearby town. I am awkwardly on the back shelf, with half my body hanging out the back and one arm pit in some poor chaps face. I think I am slowly killing him as I ditched my deodorant a week before in order to save space in my backpack. I think he is complaining about me, I feel embarrassed, so I brake the ice and motion to them that I smell and everyone on the jeep laughs at me. This seems to open up a discussion with the other passengers about me, they talk in Nepali and look and me and then laugh, I just laugh too!

Incredibly relaxing place, an old town with beautiful architecture situated in the hills.

There is about 8 other tourists in this town, i hang with 5 of them. Alex, a French man living in Malaysia about 35, French, a German man about 40, Marrie, a French girl about 24, Tadeus a Dutch man about 20. It is great to hang out with such a diverse set of people, we just relax outside in the evenings and drink chai.

I do a couple of walks around Bandipur, very atmospheric. I head to Mukundeswari to a Magar shrine with my new friends. The walk goes through some dense forest and it is difficult to make any ground, we soon get split up but we finally make it and the temple looks like a stone shed, quite funny. People have left offerings, all I have is a biscuit, so I throw that in and Alex throws in a cigarette.

We hang with this old lady in the small farming town of Mukundeswari, very entertaining. She gives Alex and French a big bag of potent weed, so they are very happy!

Journey from Bandipur to Old Delhi
I leave Bandipur Thursday at 10am and arrive in Old Delhi Friday at 6pm. A total of 32 hours spent on 3 buses. I get on a bus in Bandipur, the conductor tells me he is going to the border town and takes my money, half way there he tells me that he is not going there anymore and that I need to transfer onto another bus, after I share a joke with him about being a liar he gets me onto a new bus for free. I finally make it over the border and get some beautiful cheap Indian food and head towards the bus stand, a man outside the bus says that I need to buy a ticket from his office, I sense that I am potentially entering some sort of scam. I try to get on the bus but a man who looks like 50 Cent is blocking my way. I try to ask a guy who was on my Nepal bus whether he paid already but he does not understand me, I also ask the bus driver and he just shrugs. I follow my con man and he trys to make me pay 1000 rupees for the bus ticket, I know this is way too much, I shout at him that this is a commission scam but as I am doing this the bus starts to pull away and he tells me that I won't be getting on the bus at all. I manage to get him down to 500 rupees and board the bus. 50 cent boards the bus and takes my fake ticket and swaps it for a real ticket, with a cost of 350 rupees written on it. I Didn't lose too much in the end and under the circumstances I did well to get on the bus at all! When the guy from my Nepal bus understands what happened and that I have not much money left, he buys me food all along the way, I say no but he insists, he feels bad that I got ripped off. I trust this guy, so I accept him buying me food, after 9 weeks of travel in India, I can instantly tell who is good and who to avoid. He also travels all the way to Delhi and even gets me a good deal with the little money I have left on a rickshaw to Old Delhi. My journey on the bus travelled through some of the poorest parts of India. Every time the bus stopped I would get attacked by mosquito's, but thankfully they disappeared when the bus moved and air was flowing through. The whole journey was surprisingly not that bad, I drifted in and out of sleep and had about 10 different people sit next to me. If you had one of those speeded up videos, I would be in the same spot for 24 hours, while people all around the bus would be whizzing on and off.

Old Delhi
Arriving in Delhi was my most nervous experience, just because of all the horror stories I had heard. Two friends from Nepal told me to go to Old Delhi away from the tourist area and I never regretted it for a moment. I arrive at the Jama Masjid, a Muslim temple, designed by the same architect that designed the Taj Mahal. It is a large square surrounded by 4 storey buildings housing hotels, shops and restaurants, there are little alleyways spurring from the square, selling the most delicious cheap food that I have found in India. This is the most vibrant place I have been to ever! On my arrival at night, my eyes are wide open with all the life this place contains, there are pig heads and kebabs being cooked on large flames and just a mass of people everywhere. I find a hotel, take off my shoes and my feat are badly swollen from the travel, it takes 2 days for the swelling to go down. I wake up early and look out onto the square, two men are throwing old meat into the air and a group of eagles swoop down to collect it. all around the square people are walking up from a night of sleeping on the street. After staying here for 3 days I realise these are workers who have no homes, they have most likely come from surrounding areas. The people sleep rough but in a good, non threatening, non drunk/drugged up way, just a thing they have to do to get by before they start another day of work the next morning.

My whole stay in Old Delhi is based around food, it is all I think about, it is the best way I can become part of this place, even for a short while. The food here is so cheap but absolutely amazing, the restaurants are mainly for the poor workers who sleep around them, but they accept me when I eat with them, they make sure I pay the right sum of money, that I get a free top up of food if I am entitled and they order the waiters around for me! The owners dislike me, but I don't care as the customers make me feel at ease and welcome. My favourite place is a chai shop, like a Muslim version of a pub, I go there twice a day and start to get to know the regulars and the young waiters smile on my return, I can't communicate at all, I get friendly with an old Muslim man, he is maybe 70 and I feel frustrated that I cannot understand him, he could tell me so many fantastic story's from his time in India, he also gets frustrated at not being able to communicate. We communicate through gestures, he buys me chai and offers me a beadie (small cigar type thing), I buy him chai. Learning a language is key, I want to learn Hindi so much. My typical breakfast is big, I eat poori (puffed pastry/bread) with pea and potatoe curry, masala chai, sweet banana's, lassi (a beautiful yogurt type drink). I am stuffed and content. Meals typically cost me 12rs, that is 15p (30cents).

I do leave Old Delhi occasionally and get the underground, I head to a bar with an American to New Delhi. The underground tannoy tells me, among other things, not to make friends with strangers, I find this baffling, is this just while using the underground? or is it everywhere? I feel I need more information on this statement, how am I supposed to get along if I don't make friends with strangers, all friends start out as strangers.

It happens to be FA cup night, didn't even know it was on or that the new Wembley was finally complete, the bar had some drunk English people it it, it felt wrong, all the Indian people where staring at the leery English! Wanted to be back at my chai shop! I buy Time Out and try to do other things in New Delhi, but seam to fail each time. I try to see a famous Indian musician but it is sold out, I chat to some rich Indian ladies outside, they make me laugh, they are so snobby. I try to go to a free painting class but I arrive late, I try to go to the modern art museum but it is closed on Tuesdays, ahh well! When I am away from Old Delhi, I just constantly think of its food, each time my new adventure in New Delhi fails I scurry back to the safety of Old Delhi. I spend a Sunday at the Old Red Fort (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Fort), get a little board so head to a Sikh Temple, spend the afternoon listening to awesome tabla music, there is food and the floor is comfy, before I know it, the day is over.

I want to stay in Old Delhi much longer, it is a short romance, but like short romances it ends on a high.

That's it for India. Wooops, I forgot to go to the Taj Mahal!!


Bangkok is much better than I thought it would be, it's great being in a modern place again. Finally buy a charger for my MP3 player and a new camera and some DEET mozzie spray, finally!. Hang with some english and danish people and watch some covers band, skoot round town with them in this noisy tuk tuk thing. My room is the size of two single beds and has no windows but I love it and it's cheap.

It feels like a mid trip re-charge, I spend a lot of time at malls and do most of the tourist sights and watch some kick boxing, outdoor markets and eat crab for breakfast at a floating market.