A Travellerspoint blog

Day 5

Leaving Indore for Jaipur

sunny 30 °C

(WRITTEN BY HEPZI) What a relief it is to leave the filth and pollution of Indore, I don’t think for a while I have been happier. People say that Jaipur is beautiful and I really can’t wait. The train journey will be the longest journey so far. We had to get up at 5.45am to make sure that we caught the train at 6.20am the journey would take a total 10 hours. People along the way seemed a lot friendlier with wanting to know where we or I should say Ollie is from. (Men especially do not speak to women directly if addressing the both of us together then we are called Sir) This can sometimes be quite frustrating as you feel ignored and undermined but a good thing when beggars or street kids try to hassle us as Oly has to bear the brunt of it whilst I’m able to walk on ahead!

The 10 hour train journey encouraged banter from the kids in our carriage as they wanted to listen to the English music on my iPod and as Oly listened to the boy’s iPod we exchanged food and tried to understand each other. The 10 hour journey also encouraged unwanted attention from a young 24 year old training to be a dentist whom I thought whilst we were having a friendly conversation was filming me with his camera mobile phone as he held it all the time in front of my face whilst Oly was standing by the train door listening to his iPod starring out at the countryside. My conversation ended quite abruptly with him when he started asking about mine and Ollie’s relationship, I had told him we were engaged (I have learnt now to say we are married!) he then went onto asking if I had a physical relationship and how many people with. For the rest of the five hours I had to sit within a metre of him, I made sure I kept myself busy listening to my iPod or reading a book always making sure Ollie was there from that point on.

Along the journey the temperature certainly rose higher and the air was more humid, the land became less fertile and green and more barren. As we arrived into Jaipur my initial reaction was “not another city!” we were greeted by more dirt and more people showing us their bare bums along the tracks as the train drove by. The cities train station gave us the same impression that every other station gave.

We arrived at the Hotel Pearl Palace chosen from the guide book, it looked very pink but also immaculate and nicely decorated compared to any other hotel we had seen within our budget, unfortunately the hotel was completed booked with travellers from all over the world as the hotel was extremely popular with westerners whom after the last couple of days we were desperate to meet. We ended up staying at the hotel opposite which was pleasant and clean a real effort had been made to look presentable and welcoming. As we booked into our room me and Ollie were looking at each other with the same thought “please be a clean room,” we were relieved and delighted, the room was massive with air con and best of all fresh unused sheets. (The bathroom also has hot water but I didn’t work that out until the day we left.) We decided we would maybe stay here for a day or two.

(Ollie) Once we became settled I took it upon myself to find some beers, I walked out to the road where you can find many a rickshaw driver waiting to provide their services. I went with the driver for about 5 minutes before ending up at a dusty little shop raised above the road. The shop was about the size of a small garage and had iron steps which you had to climb from the road before reaching the counter. I ordered 4 Kingfisher Strong and a bottle of red wine for Hepzi, however when getting the bill I decided to leave the wine as it cost around £18 being that it was imported. I headed back to the hotel with my driver Mirrage who explained to me that his “good friend” was opening a silver shop in the evening and he would be greatly appreciative if Hepzi and I would pop along to the opening to make up the numbers, I told Mirrage that I would speak to Hepzi and let him know.

After finishing the beers, Hepzi and I made our way to the street where Mirrage was waiting to take us to the grand opening of his friends shop. Hepzi and I jumped in and off we went, we made our way through the busy street waiting in anticipation as to what exactly the opening event would be like. As we pulled off the nicer streets and started making our way through the back roads; I started to get a little worried about what we may have gotten ourselves into. We arrived at a little shop of the main road in an unlit area and both noticed the sign to the new shop looking rather old and tatty. As we made our way into the silver shop I noticed the strong smell of fresh paint and lots of wall mounted glass fronted cabinets which were all empty with the silver still in boxes waiting to be unpacked. The guys in the shop offered us drinks and then proceeded to show off the fine handmade specimens. It was about then when I came to the conclusion that the whole affair was a scam, with Hepzi holding a heavy solid silver necklace with a 10,000INR price tag which was actually silver plated at best . The chairs all had plastic covers on them to make them look new, however under closer inspection you could see the chairs were worn, most likely from many unsuspecting tourist that had been there before. We politely offered to pay for the drinks and said that we would sleep on it before making a decision. Hepzi played along making it look as though she really wanted the necklace which made our exit a little easier. A poor American didn’t see that it was a scam and bought quite a few things for his Sister and Mum.

Posted by HepzOliver 23:22 Archived in India Comments (0)

Day 4

Khandwa & Indore, the worst part of our journey so far.

sunny 39 °C

(WRITTEN BY HEPZI) After an 8 hour journey we arrived in Khandwa a small town (not in the guide book!) at 2.45am to wait for our next train to Indore. Arriving off the train and onto the platform at night is another experience in itself. As well as the initial stares from absolutely everyone, the platform is covered in human and animal faeces and urine along with red spit from the tobacco “paan” that lots of the Indian men chew. The train station is also a refuse for the homeless, people lie with their families alongside cows and other animals. Every bench or seat is taken up with sleeping bodies.

We tried to book our onward journey to Indore at the ticket booth which stays open all hours; the only seat we could get was an unreserved standing seat for a journey that would take us around 3 hours. That also meant we would have to fight our way onto the train with our backpacks in tow, something that would be near impossible.
We walked out onto the street to try and find a street vendor selling water. At this point in time I was feeling very nauseous either because I was worried about our current situation or due to the fact that the street was worse than the platform; the smells were horrendous, rubbish and waste lined the street and people were freely taking a leak or a dump at the side of the road. With every Indian staring at us I felt awful and embarrassed but I couldn’t hold it in my stomach only longer....

We decided (as we couldn’t easily lie down and fall asleep on the train platform) to stay in a nearby hotel. We got into a rickshaw and asked the driver to take us to a hotel. He drove us down some back alleys where the amounts of rubbish and crap on the streets were at their worst. We arrived at a concrete building in the slum area where the entrance of the floor was covered by hundreds of flies. Putting a long story short the room they gave us had used sheets and dirty pillows with blood and worn holes. The bed was also infested with bugs and ants congregated in the bedroom and in the bathroom where the toilet was black. There was also s**t on the bedroom walls. We requested a bottle of mineral water as I was so dehydrated after being ill, and the bloke brought us a bottle of water that was open and half full, most likely tap water. We contemplated it for 10 minutes, whilst I braved a quick shower and decided we would become ill and bitten alive if we stayed here. Oly went down stairs to speak to the owner of the hotel and tried to demand our money back whilst I quickly packed up our sleeping bags. The owner had padlocked us into the hotel and told us we must leave in the morning. After an exchange of words the owner opened the door and we walked out onto the street knowing that we would have to find our way back to the train station as there were no rickshaws to be seen. As I have a brilliant sense of direction it wasn’t hard to find our way back to square one ;-).

After the hotel experience we wanted to leave Khandwa as soon as we could. We spoke to a group of people around a jeep that were heading to Indore once their jeep was full for a price of 100INR each. The boys or young men that surrounded the jeep were a lot bigger than the rest of the Indians we had come across (which pushed Oly out of his comfort zone) and they seemed to be smoking Opium too. A local young business man was kindly helping us translate to the locals as we tried to hire our own taxi but this would cost us around 2000INR for the 4 hour journey. He also mentioned that it might not be very safe to ride with the young men in the jeep and suggested that we took the local bus which left at 5.00am along with the locals that travelled to Indore to work.

Once on the bus we were able to relax except for the fact that we had to put our bags underneath in the storage area which meant at every stop Oly would get out and check that our bags weren’t taken.
(WRITTEN BY OLY) The road to Indore was long and winding and pretty fricking scary, however the after the first few overtaking manouvers on blind bends or brows of hills past, we soon became at ease with the mental Indian driving and were happy to put up with it as we were just so god dam happy to be out of the dump Khandwa.

Taking the bus for the first time was quite an experience as it gave us a different insight to the people and villages along the roads that we hadn’t seen from the trains. On this eight hour trip we saw many awesome views with one of the best being the view of the lush green valley’s as we made our way up into a large hill range.

Arriving at Indore (a city built on manufacturing) we quickly realised that the place was about as clean as Khandwa, however we managed to find a reasonable hotel which many business man frequented. We stayed in our hotel room and slept from about 9am to 6pm as we hadn’t slept in the previous 20 hours or so.

When we awoke we decided to take a walk and found a nice restaurant where we stayed for a couple of hours before making our way back to the hotel.

Posted by HepzOliver 04:57 Archived in India Comments (0)

Day 3

Journey to Nasik

overcast 33 °C

Feeling slightly curried out for breakfast we only had a milkshake to wash down the malaria tablets.
After what seemed like an hour of re-packing we left the hotel at 9.30 to catch a rickshaw to the train station which was just on the outskirts of Mumbai as this was closer to us than the central station, being 40 minutes away. As we left the hotel the heavens opened.

We had not yet been in a rickshaw so we were quite excited at this new experience. We just managed to fit ourselves with our bags piled on top of us in the back of the tiny automobile, we couldn’t move an inch. Along the way in the middle of a traffic jam the tut tut broke down and it was a matter of time before the traffic would start moving again, we were stuck in the middle of so many cars. It took many attempts for the driver to re-start the tut, during which the beeps of the traffic to our rear became more fierce. (WRITTEN BY OLY) Although everyone here beeps all the time, it isn’t the same as in England, people here love their horns and don’t mean any aggression when they use them. They are purely to let people know they are coming through, with some cars having “Use your horn! OK” written on the back of them, god dam annoying.

The rain got heavier & heavier and at one point the flooded road was about to poor over the edge of the door well. The water created waterfalls pouring off of the roof tops and kerb edges. The rain wasn’t cold and it wasn’t too hot, it was rather refreshing, children played in the floods and people made their way through the flooded streets as if it was a normal day. It makes you realise how resilient people are here.

(WRITTEN BY HEPZI) So a break down, a crash and 2 hours later, we finally arrived at a grubby looking train terminal. The water had turned the ground to mud and homeless people huddled under the bridge that was close to the terminal. Here was the first time we were surrounded by begging children, one of the girls kept tapping my arm and repeating something that sounded like Pepsi or Hepzi, it was a little bit strange I think she must have heard Oly say my name. (WRITTEN BY OLY) Although human nature tells us to help these people, the money would normally go to the children’s master and encourage begging as a way of life. It is much better to give them food or we have been told crayons, if you give them crayons, they, if only for a minute or two, can act like a child in the madness of their usual environment.

The children soon left us alone and we made our way onto the train which we would be on for the next three hours. The train was extremely long and was two toned blue and light blue in colour. It had large metal bars on all the windows which were to stop people from climbing in. Riding on top of the trains is now banned so although I wanted to, I thought I had better make do with holding onto the hand rails and looking out of the open carriage door instead. As we started to make our way out of the hustle and bustle of Mumbai and into the countryside the air became fresher and although the stench of human excrement was rather strong when travelling slowly along the tracks (due to the toilets being flushed onto the tracks), once we picked up some speed, you could enjoy the tropical smells coming from the track side flora, the sights, smells and sounds of while hanging from the train door really was an amazing experience.

Whilst on the train, there is an abundance of vendors selling everything a traveller could need, from samosas to key chains, Hepzi and I went for some samosas which were served in a little food tray made from a staple box. They cost 10INR for 2 samosas and a little green chilli, which after taking a bite, Hepz realised was somewhat hotter than the chilli’s we are use to. We also risked having a cup of Chai tea each, generally if the food and drink is very hot, it’s ok to consume.

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(WRITTEN BY HEPZI) Nasik is a holy town where people all over India travel to see its temple and to pray & bathe at the Ghats. No tourists were around at the time and all though Nasik is in our guide book we are not sure that the people there especially the children had ever seen a white person before. This led to very intimidating and constant stares from thousands of people on the bustling narrow streets. After being bumped into by what seemed like an angry holy person possibly from the way I was dressed (all though my shoulders were covered and I was wearing an ankle long dress a passerby who owned a shop explained that not wearing a Shari was disrespectful, all though wearing jeans and t-shirt was the attire by some Indian girls, normally the wealthier middle class with western influence).

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(WRITTEN BY OLY) We travelled by rickshaw to the hotel we had chosen from our guide book and turned up to what looked like a very nice hotel, however it seemed that the hotel was in three parts and the first reception we arrived at was the top end hotel of the three. Then we made our way to a second reception desk before actually finding the third and correct reception desk to the lower end but what seemed like a reasonable hotel and the cheapest of our trip at 600 INR per night, about £8. The hotel was tucked away at the back of the nicer hotels which suited us fine as it meant we didn’t have to listen to the constant beeping of horns.

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After trying to buy some train tickets to Indore, where we would be able to change trains to head to Jaipur, Rajasthan, we ended up having to buy tickets to Khandwa where we would wait at the train station for 3 hours before getting a train to Indore where we would be able to travel to Jaipur from.

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So after buying our tickets to Khandwa we had dinner at the hotel restaurant which was tasty and clean (no stomach upsets yet) and then went to bed. The next day we chilled out at the hotel until around 7pm which was when we left for our train to Khandwa.

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(WRITTEN BY HEPZI) Arriving at the train station and finding the correct platform we have learnt is a skill. There is nothing written in English at any of the train stations we have been to so far to direct you to the correct place to wait for your train. We have learnt that asking is the best way to find out what you want to know, however asking more than two people is a good idea. So after nearly not getting on the correct train we found our correct carriage and seat number and joined another two Indian men, Ankur and Dinesh.

After a couple of games of BLOB, which broke the ice with the two strangers, I felt happier about falling asleep in the presence of these two people as we felt they would certainly help us out if we had any problems.

Posted by HepzOliver 03:11 Archived in India Comments (0)

Day 2

Exploring Mumbai.

overcast 33 °C

We awoke to have our first curry of the trip for breakfast, Oly seemed to enjoy it far more than I did, I found it bland and a bit tasteless. The two of us left the hotel with tour guide Salim as he was recommended to us by the hotel and the taxi driver. Salim promised us an all day sightseeing trip for 2000INR telling us the car was ours for the day and that they would take us to all the best sites in Mumbai.

We drove past slums and shacks on the sides of the road everywhere you go there is poverty. The streets are covered with rubbish and filth, nothing is clean here.

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The car stopped outside a “feed the poor restaurant” where people (all men) sit outside in front of an eating house in rows like school children and wait for passersby to give money to the “maître Dee” styled man. Once an exchange of money has been passed the front row of men get up and enter the restaurant where they will then be fed. The rest of the men all shuffle forward whilst a new row of people form at the back.

Our guide Salim got us some beers, so that he felt (we know now) he could carry on drinking in front of us. We were unaware in the beginning but we could tell he had been drinking all day.

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Our guide showed us the airport we flew into....the domestic airport close by, a 5* hotel, a 7* hotel and a water tower before we asked him to show us the slums. I think he thought we would be impressed somehow at expensive things.
We saw a church which had a statue which was filled with gold although the outside was made from stone and also a beach where the locals flocked to, probably one of the dirtiest places I have ever been.

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We travelled with Salim and Ali to the Gate of India, which sits at the southern point of Mumbai. While here we saw the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel (the one which Islamist extremists set fire to in 2008 where over three hundred people died).

While here Hepzi decided she needed to go to the loo and what better place to go than the Taj Mahal Hotel. We decided we would try to get in and after making our way through to the security we headed to the toilets which were bigger than the Hotel we were staying in. There was marble and gold plate everywhere and the differences between the street outside and the glamour and luxury of the hotel were so very different, yet in such a close proximity to each other. The divides here are extremely hard to comprehend, however people in general seem happy.
While in the hotel we headed to the residents only tea lounge which looked out across the Bay and paid 2000 INR for an all you could eat buffet and with as much tea and coffee as we liked. The food was awesome and although we were massively out of place, sitting in shorts and tea shirts while business men and what looked like Arab princes sat and ate next to us, we had a great lunch and enjoyed the experience a lot.

We left the Taj Hotel and started to head home through the busy streets, dodging cars, rick shows, pedestrians, horses, goats... you name it. Unfortunately on the way home Salim showed his true colours and tried to charge us an extra 1200 INR to return to our hotel. This pissed me off as we were already going to pay a little extra to say thank you for a somewhat fun, entertaining and eventful day in Mumbai.

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In the end our driver being so embarrassed of his friend Salims attitude, he told Salim to get a train home and basically threw him out of the car, which was a relief for me as I couldn’t have handled much more of him.

We travelled home and said thanks to our Driver Ali, who offered to be our driver for the next few days should we need him. He also offered us to go to dinner with him. However after Salim, I’m unsure whether his kindness is just part of a facade to extort money from travellers. I think we are going to move from Mumbai tomorrow so won’t have time anyway; we’ll just hope and try to believe his intentions were honest.

Right, time to go all, its 12:10 and its early doors tomorrow as we travel to Nasik. Good Night! x

Posted by HepzOliver 12:12 Archived in India Comments (0)

Day 1

Arriving at Mumbai

rain 28 °C

So.... how to start, where to start!

After eating an overpriced sandwich and yoghurt for Hepzi, followed by some tea while we sat in a coffee bar in Heathrow, we said our goodbyes to Mum and Dad and worked extra hard not to get emotional as they slowly faded into the distance.

Brushing off the solemn emotions, we quickly put our minds to more productive things which at this time was finding Hepzi her camp for the night. Of course Hepzi had laid out a few prerequisites we... well... I had to think about as we walked around for a while finding the perfect place to set up camp while we waited to check in, only the best for Hepzi, not too close to the coffee bar as the music was a little loud, not too close to others as they may be a little loud. We found our perfect place in the corner out of the way near some check ins that were currently closed. We made our camp with our sleeping bags and using the blanket that Mum gave us (which by the way we couldn’t bring ourselves to throw away) and we managed to get some sleep.

After a 9 hour flight, two to three films, some games, some snoring and two in flight curry’s we finally landed in Mumbai’s international airport just after midnight, the rain pouring down.

We were greeted by a sea of taxi drivers all striving for our attention and with previously reading information about con men who work at the airport we turned away two men who actually worked for the hotel we were staying at. We finally found our porter who showed us to the car and our driver.

We waited in the back seat of the taxi while the driver argued with the airport car parking ticket guy with relation to the price of his parking ticket only to find that when he paid, the ticket man gave him the same note back, probably a scam to get the tourists to offer to pay even though the airport parking is free if under a couple of minutes (as in England).
After a short taxi ride we arrived at our hotel, the Anjali Inn which is actually situated in the middle of a slum area and seems to be the only structurally sound building in the street.

It looked like we were about the step into a store cupboard when we realised it was the reception. Our room looked clean but was very small and smelt damp, we checked under the mattress for bed bugs before we could relax.
The first thing Hepzi did was brush her teeth with the water! We consumed Olys ration packs and went to bed.

Posted by HepzOliver 09:08 Archived in India Comments (0)

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