Varanasi

Varanasi is 1 of the world’s oldest continuously inhibited cities and 1 of Hinduisms 7 holy cities. Pilgrims come to wash away a lifetime of sins in the Ganges River and families come to cremate their deceased, liberating them from the cycle of birth and death.

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Sleeping Sadhu

Varanasi was intense and like most of India was aggressive, polluted and dirty. Military presence was high and angry bulls filled the tiny alleyways. I was pleased that it took almost 2 months before a bull rammed me, as a fear of cows would have been inconvenient. However, the culture and tradition that filled the city was unique and spiritual.

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Sari

Nick and I spent the majority of our time along the river observing the 80 plus ghats. During the day the weather was hot and there were only a handful of locals on the banks. We hung out with wandering cows and fed some paper from our guidebook to hungry goats. We watched men paint tar on boats with their bare hands as we had previously seen locals painting fences in Kolkata without brushes. We people watched then continued to the burning ghats.

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Ghat

We approached a burning ghat where we saw 20 bodies burning and 10 soaking in the river before being cremated. We could walk within 10 feet of the fires. We observed and were curious. We had many questions that were later answered by some generous locals.

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Burn mark
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Burn table
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Platform

Bodies come to Varanasi within 1-2 days of dying. They are wrapped in cloth, white for men, orange for women and red for young women. Children, pregnant women, lepers and Brahmin (priests) are not cremated as children are innocent, leopards will transfer their disease and priests are pure. Instead, a large rock is attached to their bodies and they are sunk in the river.

Untouchables, individuals in the lowest caste, wrap their bodies and carry them on decorated bamboo stretchers down busy alleyways to the ghats. The most popular ghat is Manikarnika Ghat where 200-300 people are burned per day and they work 24 hours. The deceased families, identifiable as they have shaved heads, splash water from the Ganges River on their deceased and let their body soak.

The body is placed on a prepared pile of wood and a calculated number of logs are placed on top as the cost of the cremation depends on the weight of the wood and type (sandalwood being the most expensive). Cremations cost on average $12- $71, however families who cannot afford this often place whole bodies in the Ganges. We were told that where the body is burned, closer to the river, on a platform, etc. all depends on your caste. Various spices and ghee are sprinkled over of the pile before being lit. It takes approximately 3-4 hours for a single body to burn. We watched over 15 cremations in various stages. Near the end, the worker rearranges the burning logs, ash and body with a long bamboo stick. It’s easy to identify the body being jabbed, as it’s soft and almost blubbery in comparison to the incinerating wood. The final ceremony includes breaking the burning skull with the bamboo stick, in order to let the spirit escape. After the body is fully burned, the ash is collected in a large pile on the bank. We were told that workers go through the pile searching for jewelry to keep or sell before the ash is washed into the river.

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Weighing the wood
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A burning body and body soaking

Nick and I sat and observed for hours. Myself and 1 other tourist were the only women among many men. Women are forbidden to attend Hindu funerals as they may cry, which as bodily fluid is viewed as a pollutant. We could hear the bodies burn; they didn’t crackle like the wood, but sizzled and popped. Clouds of smoke overtook the area with ash afloat.

Nick and I also explored the city and visited Vishwanath Temple. This temple was of the highest security we’ve visited and took multiple security checks and documentation our passports before we gaining entry. A local fished a lay of flowers out of a holy pool of sour milk and placed it around nicks neck. They then took a handful of the coagulated milk and mud (clay texture) and rubbed it across both Nick and my forehead. This brought good luck and smelliness to our families.

We took an evening boat ride along the river. At night, the ghats were full of Indians enjoying music music and spotting a famous Bollywood actress. On the boat, we watched the glowing flames on the banks, pilgrims bathing, children at swim practice and youth playing cricket and other games on the steps of the ghats. We lit a lotus candle and watched it drift through the river.

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Bathing in the Ganges
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Evening swim practice
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Buffalo man

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Lotus candle
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Banks of Varanasi

Varanasi was by far the most touristed placed we have visited in India, however we understood the draw. Westerners are so removed from the process of death. Between practicing yoga and meditation or contemplating death and culture, Varanasi was a though provoking place full of magical energy.

Eats:

Kashi Chat Bhandar- this busy local spot is delectable! We enjoyed the aloo tikka (potato chat), tamatar chat, pani puri and kulfi fadoola for desert.

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Chat shop

Dosa Cafe – great dosas, idly, vadas and other South Indian specialties

Keshari Restaurant – over 40 paneer curries

Blue Lassi – meh

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Lassi shop

 

Mysuru (Mysore) & Coorg

Nick and I went to the Bengaluru Train Station and stood in line to buy tickets. Of course, the line was chaotic with cutting locals and unnecessary merging. In addition, needless to say, our tickets were never checked on the train. However, as we stood on the platform we watched the sweeper women who were sweeping all of the human fecal matter off of the tracks. Life in a India is hard and there were constant reminders, like cows with split hoofs searching the streets for garbage, differently abled folks crawling on the floor of the trains begging for money or hungry street kids with eyes full of tears.

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The master wood carver

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As the train approached there was a fight to get on. Nick was able to push himself on about 10 people before myself. As he sat, a 65-year-old man from outside poked him and began yelling, “I put my handkerchief on that seat so you better move!” Obviously Nick was on the train first so the seat should belong to him. I sat down next to him and he warned me we might have an interesting encounter. The man got on and was screaming! “Move now! Get up! This is my seat!” We looked around at all of the staring locals to see whether or not this was the practice and if we should give up our seat. Of course, no one helped, as in most scenes. We have been told that many Indians fear of getting involved and raising a voice as it could turn on them. Nick told him we’d wait for the conductor but we all knew the conductor would never come. Nonetheless, he started grabbing my bag and I asked him to stop touching my things. He bounced into a boxing stance with his fists in the air saying, “Touch me see what happens! Touch me!” Nick and I looked at each other; touching him was the opposite of what we had asked. I had had it. I yelled, “Maybe if you were more kind, people would do what you asked!” Zing. I told him haha. I exasperatedly rearranged some bags on the bunk above and squished myself above, while Nick awkwardly sat next to him for the next 3 hours. This is just one of the many interesting and unpredictable encounters we’ve had in India.

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What time is it? Kannada time.

We arrived to Mysuru, home to Ashtanga Yoga, incense, essential oils, beedi (Indian cigarettes), and woodcarving. The tourist town was empty of foreigners but full of local tourists as it was a holiday weekend. We explored the Mysore Palace, grandest of India’s royal buildings. It was originally built in 1897 then rebuilt in 1912 after being destroyed by a fire. It reminded me of a palace from Beauty and the Beast or Anastasia. It was full of mirrors, stained glass, chandeliers, and gold and blue archways. At night it was decorated with 100,000 glowing lights.

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The next day, Nick and I took a series of buses to Coorg, stopping in Bylakuppe. Bylakuppe was the first ever Tibetan refugee camp established after the 1959 Chinese invasion. Within the 6km tuktuk drive we notice a difference in physical attributes, attitude, architecture and dress. We visited the Namdroling Monastery, ate some momos and thenthuk before continuing to Coorg.

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Namdroling Monastery

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After passing through Coorg, we took a bus (the cheapest and most dangerous rollercoaster ride we’ve ever been on) to Mukkodlu. where we expected to meet our trekking guide. Due to some miscommunication, there was no guide and we wandered until we found an inviting homestay. We hiked 8 miles to the highest peak and got some great views. The landscape was lush and green with rolling mountains. It was nice to escape the hectic cities and spend some time in nature.

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Mountain top Hindu Temple

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Sweaty Betty

Mysuru Eats:

Hotel RRR – queue for tables like at ski resorts and wait to be served veg thalis served on banana leaves (always eat with your right hand and your left is reserved for the toilet)

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Vinayaka Mylari – queue and eat masala dosas with coconut coriander chutney (no utensils will be found here)

McDonalds – We may or may not have tried McDonalds McVeg and Aloo (potato) Tikka meals.

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McVeg

Bangaluru (Bengalore)

Known for its booming IT industry, Bangaluru offers green space, craft breweries, and indoor bouldering gyms. This city was the most progressive, clean, and at times Nick and I forgot that we were in India. We noticed a change from the north to south, the food became spicier and the aggressive personalities became more rare.

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We spent time walking around Cubbon Park, Lalbagh Botanical Gardens and MG Road. However, we most enjoyed spending time with our wonderful CouchSurfing host. She lived in a quiet old neighborhood and the second we walked into her home it felt comfortable. It smelt of essential oils and we spent hours with our feet up on her coffee table discussing gender inequality, demonetization, GMOs and labor conditions in the Middle East (as she previously lived in Saudi Arabia).

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Her views were extremely progressive and she helped explain to us why conservative Indians view women of rape as stained or adopted kids as less. Being the first single female local willing to discuss these deep topics with me we were able to laugh about how ironic it is that in India you end up apologizing for having something stolen or your body sexualized. Perpetrators play it off so casually you question weather or not you are yelling or accusing someone of nothing. She answered some of our questions, like why transgendered woman clap in your face on the train asking for money. She told us that transgendered kids are taken away from their families at a young age to live in communities. They are believed to have a sort of “magic” where they can bless you (for a fee) or curse you. It is common for Hindu men to give as many fear this magic.

Our CouchSurfer took us to a local theatre to see a documentary, we ordered late night take out and ran errands. Nick and I have been to uncountable markets, however exploring the Krishnarajendra Market with her was a treat. We picked up cottons and silks for her dressmaking, jewelry, vegetables, and kitchenware. We were thankful for this experience so our host but also thankful for our passport. As we have been constantly reminded by CouchSurfers how lucky we are to be from a country that has valued currency and access to visas. However, we are also reminded how much fear our current administration is creating worldwide.

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Eats:

Indira Darshini- try the paper masala dosa (curried vegetables in a large crisp crepe), kesari bhath (sweet polenta like texture with nuts and raisin) and filtered coffee

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Sweets – between fadoola, curd, sweet balls, jalabis and vermicelli noodles soaked in saffron milk, anyone with a sweet tooth will go nuts

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Fadoola (noodles, basil seeds, ice cream, jello, saffron juice, and curd)

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Sajjan Rao Circle – street food

Toit Brewpub – 5 microbrews on tap

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“Sending it since 2010”

Ice apple – an asian fruit with a texture similar to lychee, rambothan or longan, this palm fruit is now one of my favorites

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Ice Apple

 

Goa & Hampi

Nick and I spent 4 days and 3 nights in Goa. Our guidebook described the beaches we visited; Palolem, Agonda and Patnem as hippie backpacker chill outs with cheap bungalows, drugs, and silent (headphone) dance parties. That is the definition of what Nick and I try to avoid, however everyone talks about Goa and we figured we should go.

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Agonda, Goa

We arrived in April and to our pleasant surprise it was dead. Visiting during off-season we enjoyed abandoned towns, quiet beaches and spending time doing absolutely nothing. We hadn’t realized it had been months since we just stopped and relaxed, and it was needed. We met up with our friends form Angola and spent our time eating mediocre tourist food, playing Uno, setting off fireworks, swimming in the ocean and just hanging out.

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After taking a sleeper bus to Hampi it reaffirmed our love for India’s rail transit. In the 2 months we’ve spent in India we will have spent 6 overnights on trains. The system is cheap (subsidized), efficient, and comfortable. We’ve met so many wonderful people on the trains and at the stations. Nick and I have a blast arriving to a city and figuring out the train, tuktuk, Uber, plane and bus systems.

Visiting India during the off-season has been wonderful, however the heat was hard. It’s been on average 105-110 degrees and we haven’t had ac in 3 weeks. We wake up in the middle of night sweating; try taking a cold shower, only to find that the water is turned off. It feels like my clothes are consistently damp, however the perks of the off-season outweigh the heat by a hundred fold.

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Hampi

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We spent time in Hampi exploring the ancient ruins dating from the 11th – 13th century. In the 16th century, this now World Heritage Site was once a thriving capital home to 500,000 individuals. My favorite artifact was a large granite Ganesh, while nick liked the elephant stables in the Zenana Enclosure. We saw many young females with shaved heads and learned that it’s common when traveling to Hampi to offer your hair to the temples. The town was quant, empty, meatless and alcohols free. Every morning locals painted the street in front of their home with cow feces and water to welcome guests. We were told that Hindus believe cows resemble their mothers as their provide nourishment to their fields, thus cow fertilizer is sacred.

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Stone Chariot

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Elephant Stables
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“Take my family’s photo.”

 

The ruins were thought provoking but what I thought made Hampi magical was its landscape. A sea of round granite boulders with beautiful cracks engulfed yellow planes with palm trees. It resembled a scene from Jurassic park. Nick and I spent 2 days bouldering, as it is world famous for its problems. However, since we seem to have lost most of our climbing strength and the blistering sun made it difficult, we didn’t spend too much time on the rocks. It is obvious why travelers (climbers specifically) could spend months in Hampi.

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Bouldering in Hampi
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Crashing on crash pads

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We met our friends from Angola again and it had been nice seeing familiar faces throughout India. We rented bicycles and were told to bike 3 km along the river to spend the afternoon swimming in waterfalls. Needless to say, the next few hours we wandered around banana plantations, got lost in the desert, cooled off in a lagoon (thankfully no crocodiles were spotted) and we reached the falls only to find rocks. It seemed like the bike rental shop and all of the locals along the way forgot to mention the water dries up during the spring. After flipping over the handlebars of my bike and scrapping up my hands we ended the evening with some Uno before taking a sleeper train to Bangaluru.

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Goan Eats:

The Cafe – set veg breakfast, amazing.

New world – expensive organic/veg restaurant, we enjoyed a delectable paneer steak

Little world – cheap tourist food

Feni (cashew liquor) – try the local cashew nuts, cachew fruit or alcohol made from the fruit

Hospet (Hosapete) Eats:

Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan (across from the bus stand) – impeccable. The set dosa cost 45 R (70 cents) or try some idlis (spongy round fermented rice cake) and vada (fried dough) for breakfast.

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Breakfast Idly and Vada
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Breakfast Puri
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Half eaten set dosa with coriander coconut chutney

Hampi Eats:

Mango Tree – the special thali is huge (130 R)

Laughing Buddha – great hangout overlooking the river

Mumbai (Bombay)

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Mumbai sits on a narrow peninsula that juts into the Arabian Sea. This congested and densely populated city is home to 25 million people. The public transit system is poor, however the business district is booming and many famous Bollywood actors and actresses live here.

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Nick and I spent 3 days Couchsurfing in Mumbai. Our host took us out for late night rides to the beach, kulfi ice cream, paan (refreshment leaf) and tours of Bollywood homes. I particularly had an interesting experience as his views of women made for a unique experience. However, not negative as I was excluded from conversations and actives. Nonetheless, it was a cultural experience and we were thankful for the hospitality.

We spent time wandering the south and taking in the old architecture: High Court, Gateway of India, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (awesome train station), Taj Mahal Palace (high end hotel), Chhatrapti Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, and Rajabai Clock Tower.

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Gateway of India

 

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CSVMS – Prince of Wales Museum of Western India
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High Court

We explored the bazaar district and loved the variety of fruit sold at the Crawford Market, the largest market in Mumbai. We were lucky to be there during the beginning of Alphonso mango season. We paid 400 R ($6) for 12 delicious locally grown mangos and drooled over beautiful papayas, pomegranates, cashews, dried fruits, spices, and figs.

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Crawford Market
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Alphonso Mangos

Dharavi slum- Nick and I decided to visit the Dharavi Slum, as 53% of Mumbai’s population lives in slums. This slum is home to 1 million people and stretches over 432 acres. Parts of the movie “Slum dog millionaire” were filmed in Dharavi. There are over 10,000 government registered businesses located in the slum, mostly in the leather, recycling (plastics), and pottery industry.

We were torn whether or not visiting was ethical, however decided that in order to address issues within our society we need to educate ourselves in every way possible. In addition, by booking a tour through Reality Tours & Travel, 80% of the proceeds went to community centers educating youth. Nick and I found the experience fascinating as it didn’t feel like we were in a “slum”. It felt like we were in any other part of India, walking through back alleys to a bus station. The word “slum” simply means a settlement residing on government land. The degree of poverty within slums vary, however the West puts such a negative connotation on the word. This community had shops and did the work that others would not. The jobs were dangerous (burning paint, melting aluminum and recycling plastics) and takes years off of the local’s lifespan. Since photography was prohibited (rightly so) check out the great photos we were provided.- read more on slum tourism

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Crossing the bridge to Dharavi
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Dharavi Slum – photos below by Reality Tours & Travel

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Marine Drive – Here, Nick and I watched the sunset over the Arabian Sea. The twinkling night-lights of Mumbai were nicknamed, ‘the queens necklace’, and hundreds of locals gathered for the evening. Unfortunately, we couldn’t actually see the sun set due to the dense air pollution.

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Sunset at Marine Drive

Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat- This 140 year old area is known as the largest human powered washing machine. Thousands of kilograms of clothes are cleaned a day and there are over 1,026 open air troughs.

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Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat – human powered washing machine

Bombay Panjrapole- 300 homeless cows are located in the middle of the city. Goats, donkeys and dogs can be found and they are all provided shelter and fed.The Mumbai Wall Project – Nick and I wandered parallel from Bandra to Colaba train stations. The 2 km wall of street art addressed issues regarding pollution, gender equality, aborting females, and child abuse. Although the majority of the wall seemed to be repainted, the murals left were thoughts provoking and beautiful.

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Malabar Hill- At the tip of the peninsula, Nick and I roamed around an exclusive and quiet neighborhood. The homes were large and it felt like we escaped the chaos of Mumbai for just a few minutes. Hidden between streets, we visited Banging Tank where kids played and Hindu pilgrims bathed.

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Banganga Tank

Food:

-Try a bombil (Bombay Duck) thali, it’s sun dried fish that’s then deep fried.

 

-Near Marine Drive there is an amazing kulfi shop that serves pre sliced ice cream between wafers.

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bhel puri at Chowpatti (beach food trucks ) *excellent fadoolas

Jodhpur & Udaipur

Nick and I spent 2 days in Jodhpur, the blue city. Traditionally, the highest caste, Brahmins or priests, painted their homes blue. Now, not only Brahmins, but also individuals in other castes paint their homes blue to add to the vibrant hue of the city.

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Jodhpur, the blue city

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Like in most Rajasthani cities, the prize of the city was the fort. We explored the fort, the clock tower and watched little donkeys carry heavy loads of rocks to and from work sites throughout the city.

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Jodhpur’s clock tower

We took an 8-hour government bus to the last Rajasthani city on our list, Udaipur. On the ride we noticed a change in dress. Local males wore hot pink or enormous turbans (pagris), which we learned, can tell one’s region, caste and social class. The women wore thick matching plastic bangles from their shoulders to their wrists. Widest near the shoulder then smallest toward the elbow. Then they would start again, the widest at their elbow and smallest at their wrist. No part of their arm was exposed and the funnel of plastic was very unique to this area.

Udaipur is known as the city of (manmade) lakes. The landscape was hilly with bodies of water dispersed throughout. Nick and I CouchSurfed with an extremely friendly family, which included, Raja (King), Rani (Queen) and their daughter. We enjoyed interesting conversations and researched international universities that offer scholarships to Indian citizens for their daughter. The mother and daughter were more than upset to find out I wasn’t carrying any cosmetics on me as they love foreign cosmetics. The mother told us that she felt unlucky to have been born in India, as she was an intelligent and hard working woman, but her currency wasn’t worth anything and because acquiring foreign visas is difficult for Indian residents she will never be able to leave. When her husband, Raja asked us about our new president, Rani interrupted, only to tell us that a famous Bollywood actor (who has god-like status in India) went to visit the U.S. however was either refused or the process took hours, as he was Muslim. Later in Mumbai, we drove past this Bollywood actor’s house, to hear the story again by another CouchSurfer. Exaggerated or not, this was extremely embarrassing and a terrible reflection of our new administration and the travel ban.

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CouchSurfing with Rani (Queen)

On our first evening in Udaipur, Nick and I hiked a small hill to enjoy a sunset point. The next day we visited a famous 18th-century haveli (Bagore-Ki-Haveli) with 138 rooms and the city palace. This palace, built in 1599 was the largest in Rajasthan. It was the most restored and really gave a complete understanding of what it must have been like as a royal family at that time. The palace was enormous and grand and the museum seemed to go on forever. After, Nick got a 40 R ($.62) straight razor shave.

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Sunset over Udaipur, the lake city
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Nick dancing with Rajasthani puppets at Bagore-Ki-Haveli
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City Palace

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Nick’s 62 cent straight razor shave

The next day, we visited a Hindu temple at the center of town and Nick worked on applications. The end of our trip is beginning to come into sight and neither of us are ready. We walked around some lakes and experienced a hindu funeral. We saw parade of men walking by us as and they threw flowers onto a deceased man they carried. His face was powdered with colors. We watched as his body slowly turned into a cloud of smoke. We were thankful to experience this tradition. We learned that woman are never allowed to attend funerals, as they are more emotional than men. Some foreign traditions seem strange, however at least wives are no longer being burned with the husbands. We ended our last day by visiting the Monsoon Palace (Sajjan Garh) for a beautiful sunset with psychotic and aggressive food driven monkeys.

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View from Mansoon Palace

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Sajjan Garh

 

Favorite Eats:

  • Hotel Priya- best lassi ever. Thick yellow custard flavored with saffron topped with dried fruits and nuts. They also have the biggest dosas ever!
  • Om Juice – right behind the northern gate, serves great mango lassis
  • Start the morning at an omelet shop at the northern gate and wash it down with some chai
  • Millets of Mewar – a delicious organic Indian fusion restaurant that offers vegan and gluten free options.

Camel Trek

From Pushkar, Nick and I took a bus to Ajmer, a train to Phulera, and another train to Jaisalmer. Although 18 hours of transit and feeling ill we made the best of our situation and made a friend at 2 am in the station. As we approached our destination, we peered from the window of the train and watched as a massive fort emerge from the sand. It resembled a life-sized sand castle sitting in the middle of the desert, overlooking a gold city below. The inside of the fort was extravagant, however different from the many other forts we’ve visited in Rajasthan. Built in 1156, it holds 3,000 residents and resembled more of an ancient city with crumbling infrastructure than a well preserved historic site.

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Jaisalmer Fort
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The Gold City
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Homes inside of the fort

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Outside of the fort, Nick and I enjoyed good views and, of course, impeccable food. The streets were more quant in Jaisalmer, however as always, honking motorbikes and cows eating trash roamed the lanes. The desert heat was extreme as temperatures reached 110 F and observing nomadic life in the desert was unfathomable.

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Haveli

The next morning, Nick and I began our camel trek. You may be thinking, a little hypocritical, I often write in my posts to do research before riding elephants. Nick and I have looked into riding camels and with Sahara Travels in Jaisalmer the camels are very well cared for.

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Goat escape in a desert village
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mud home

Our guide, Napu, Nick, and I rode our camels in a line for a few hours and visited a desert village. The camels had 1 hump and were taller and more slender than the camels we rode in Mongolia. However, this made sense due to their environment. When the sun became too strong, we relaxed under a tree, what seemed like the only shade for miles. A nearby goat herder joined us, and he and our guide must have had a deal as he gave us fresh milk for chai and in exchange we all drank tea and ate lunch together. Providing fresh milk for our tea entailed taking my empty water bottle, squirting milk into it from 3 goats utters and pouring it into our chai.

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Goat herder, providing us fresh milk for chai

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Over lunch, Nick and I had some touching conversations with our guide. As I was reading, Untouchable, I had many questions about India’s caste system, Hinduism, and woman’s role in society. Napu told us that in the villages, the caste system is still very much alive. It determines your job, friends and who you’ll be arranged to marry. Speaking in perfect English, we were shocked to learn that he never attended school. He could not read or write and this seemed to trouble him. Some of the other boys in his village were able to get an education (none of the females) but he began guiding camel trips at the early age of 14 (he is now 20). He had never left Jaisalmer and said that sometimes when he sleeps, he prays that he wasn’t born in India. We asked him why and he said, “Because Indians follow and change isn’t happening quick enough.” He heard that in China, years ago, they had a similar caste system and arranged marriages and that gave him hope because if a China had changed, India too could change. Nick and I often find individuals that work in tourism have it tough as they idealize Western culture, however are stuck in the confinements of their own.

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After lunch and some deep discussions, Napu let us “drive” our own camels, although they knew exactly where they were going. We spent the next few hours riding along and enjoying the sandy landscape. A dog that had been following us the entire trek was running ahead of us, laying in shade, then catching back up to us. We were told he was a “wild” dog but had recently began following treks. As we passed through a village, 3 dogs attacked the dog following us and had him pinned to the ground. They were going to kill him. When he finally got away there was blood all over his neck and head. Again, they tried to attack but Napu chased them away on his camel (this was a sight!) The dog was persistent and followed us in the heat and hot sand to the dunes where we camped for the evening. When I tried to give the dog water he was extremely uncomfortable, as he had probably zero positive human interaction. However, he soon let me poor water into his mouth.

That evening, we enjoyed sleeping under the full moon on the sand dunes among the dung beetles and mosquitos. We were only 55 miles from Pakistan but all we could see was desert. I woke up several times just to take in the view, and unconsciously check on the dog. The dog got attached again as he obviously was in another dog’s territory. After that, he slept next to Nick and I. I was so concerned for this dog that it seemed silly. Sure, have compassion for all sentient beings and if you can prevent a death, obviously do so. However, I don’t think I was as fixated on this particular dog, rather what the dog represented.

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Sleeping beauty

I felt as if this dog represented all of the street kids in India. I have the ability to give some food and water, enough to survive for x amount of time, however by doing so I habituating a behavior. I am ultimately making the matter worse only to feel like I’ve helped. There are so many people that need help, support and compassion and I don’t have enough for everyone. I felt conflicted. The next morning, I gave the dog a little more water and he patiently waited our group to pack up before eating the scraps we left behind. He had enough energy to hunt a small desert antelope, however was unsuccessful. We rode the camels for a few hours back to Napu’s village where we said goodbye to our guide and the dog.

Nick and I would have loved to do a longer trek, however since we had to buy our train tickets in advance (as they fill up quickly) we were on a constant schedule. India is a large diverse country and 2 months is not nearly enough time to explore it.

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Local Recommendations:

Chandan Shree Restaurant – serves spicy Rajasthani, Punjabi, South Indian, Gujarati and Bengali dishes.

Hotel Fort View – cheap and clean rooms (250 R) with friendly staff and zero pressure to book a camel trek.

Sahara Tours – great camel treks, cheaper than other companies in town, ask for Napu.

Try breakfast from a street cart across from Sahara Tours. It’s similar to a large papadam covered in curry with fresh red onion.

Bhang Shop – This government authorized shop sells a variety of bhang lassis, juices, cookies and candies. It also appeared on Anthony Boudain’s tv show and there are photos plastered on the walls to prove it.

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