Monday, 22 October 2012

Bangkok


Bangkok, wow! What an interesting city! I love it so much and there is so much to do that I can't leave. I take my bags and walk to the train which will take me to the city. On the way I stop by the shop that says "Local sim cards". Remember my story about Indian sim card? It took me the whole day, they sent me here and there and here again, I had to fill numerous applications, take pictures, and provide a local address with a local reference! It took me the whole day! Listen to the Bangkok sim card story now ... you pay $10, you get a sim card, it takes a whooooole freaking minute! :) I get on the train with hundreds on signs leading to it. Everybody's smiling at you, greeting you, taking their time to help you, opening doors for you, helping you with the luggage. I have never had an easier arrival than in here! You just can't get lost or freaked out in a city like Bangkok! The train is clean, efficient, fast, people wait on the sides when the doors open letting the passengers get off first. I was so tempted to push in at first! :) The Thais are so fashionable! They wear very outgoing colorful weird cloths, weird nails, weird contact lenses, too much weird make up, they all have weird gadgets, weird couples, he's shorter and younger, but he looks cool and wears the coolest cloths ever. People are dressed like they just got out of a fashion show. Unfortunately Thais have a big problem with very bad cases of acne. Ladies wear the shortest shorts ever, and no one is staring at them except me :) Everyone is so polite, quiet and respectful. WoW!!!! I have no idea who the Prime Minister of Canada is, but an hour after arrival in Bangkok, I already know who is their king. His picture and posters are everywhere. Huge billboards on streets and schools, government offices, in all stores … people love their king!
First hostel where I arrived is in a very traditional Thai neighbourhood. No one is really speaking English, but everyone is so helpful, it doesn't really matter that they don't. I settle down, and go to meet my friend who lives in Bangkok for 2 years now. We meet at the mall, and it's the best mall I've ever been to. It's called "Terminal 21" and every floor is like a different city. A man dressed up like a pilot opens the doors and salutes you. There are Tokyo, London, Rome, Istanbul floors all selling appropriate things with appropriate decor. In the restaurant, the lady who serves us bows down every time she comes to the table.
Shopping is great and cheap. I bought Esprit shorts with a tag on it that says among other countries, Canada $44, Thailand $9. The shops are all original, good quality with a fraction of the price. If anyone comes to visit Thailand, please do yourself a favour and come with an empty suitcase! :) The toilet is amazing. It has so many buttons which control the temperature of the seat and the water, the volume, direction, pattern. It should become a tourist attraction! :)
In the hostel we all gathered up and went to see the royal palace. Man, this palace is expensive, but oh so worth it! Everything is decorated with statues, dragons, door keepers, "gold" plated and glass plated buildings and stupas. It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen! We ended up in the most touristic part of town, everybody left and I had a problem catching a taxi back. The taxies wait at the ends of the street. I tell them where I need to go, and they tell me $7, what?? It should cost around $2 (taxies are so cheap in Thailand, $2 for 20 minutes). I tell them to use the meter. They tell me that it's too little for them, I tell them that $7 is too much for me. We don't settle on anything, and I do what I usually do in a place that's spoiled by tourism, I walk a minute in any direction until I get out of that area and catch a taxi on the road which happily turns on the meter without you asking for it.
Next day I went to a few more sights. I saw huge reclining Buddha, 42 meters in length! And 100s of Buddhas sitting around it. People are exchanging their bills for small coins and drop them in small iron buckets that align the walls of the temple generating a musical melody. Then I saw a temple with spooky stairs to the top, but offers good views of the city. The river is used as transportation too, and there are public boats that go along the river, with smaller boats that take you to the other side at every station.
I've never seen that many tourists in my life. Maybe there are many tourists in Europe, but it's hard to tell who's a tourist and who's a local. Here because local people are Asian, it's easy to see the tourists. At some boat stations, the tourists way outnumber the locals. Among the tourists, there is huge number of expats, not surprisingly, most of them are male.
In the evening I meet my friend again and ask him all about Bangkok and its culture. I ask him if he dated any Thai girls. On this evening I learn everything there is to know about sex tourism in Thailand. He tells me what's the point of dating white girls. They're so picky, they want too much, they're playing hard to get, they're unsatisfied with everything and expect too much. On the other hand Thai girls are so easy. You don't even need to pick them up. All you have to do is be white! Thais are hanging out where the expats do, and in a vision of a white guy launch themselves at them. He told me that they don't have any guy nights out, they try to do it every time, but it's always cancelled because every friend is going to the bar and is surrounded by 4 Thai girls. What's the point of having guy's nights out? Everybody wants a white boyfriend, or a chance to sleep with him, or just have a drink. He said that you can take your gf out once a week and she'll be the happiest person ever. Every guy's self esteem rises in Thailand. If you're socially awkward, if you don't know how to speak with girls, no problems, just book a ticket to Bangkok! Sex tourism is a big problem in Thailand with a population of 70 million, 3 million are sex workers. It's hard to make a life in villages, and all the girls dream of scoring a white husband, most of them don't though and the only option for family’s survival is to send the girls to go-go bars. At first it's looked down upon, but after the family can buy larger rice fields, or get modern gadgets such as TVs, bikes, cars, the neighbours seeing that, send their own daughters to big cities. We went to one of the go-go bars. Ladies are dancing topless with numbers on their skirts most of them with fake boobs, you just sit around the stage with a menu and order anyone/thing you like. I have to tell you, the girls don't look too enthusiastic though. Bangkok should be renamed as Bang Cock ... it seems to be appropriate for here. We ordered a drink, and after 1 drink I had enough. On that street full of go-go bars, a lot of very young girls have c section scars, I guess from big white babies who can’t make it out of small Thai women. Afterwards we went to a club. The music was very good, Thai band was playing, and by listening to them you could never guess they're Thai. Again, lots of old white men are hanging around young Thai girls. I mean really old, like 70 years old, barely walking, with barely any hair left, and are with 20 years old, doing to them anything they want. Most of them having their hands right there. Every time I see it, it disgusts me, and I see it often. Not only in Thailand, but I guess here it's much more open and common, but in all of SE Asia as well. I'm getting used to it though, and am trying to understand it. Old white men have problems at their countries getting a girl other than a hooker, and it's gonna cost them a fortune. They can get girls (and who wouldn't want to) in SE Asia for $5, at most. They're happy, the Thai girls are happy. It's a win win for everybody. On the other hand I'm thinking if sex tourism was not allowed in here, maybe the girls would do something else more productive? I'm a bit against that, but very pro marriages. The guy can have a Thai girl who's gonna cook for him, and clean for him, and care for him, and not be all fussy like the white gfs/wives. The Thai girl gets security, money, and even the least white gentleman is the biggest gentleman in Thailand, because from what I heard Thai men treat their wives very badly. They're the kings, and wives are servants. There is no opening doors, pouring a drink, putting a coat on, a woman does all that. Women work more, don't go out, don't drink and only do the household stuff and care for their babies and husband. Inter-racial marriage sounds like a very good option to me for both sides.
I come back to the hostel at 4am, when Petra comes into the room, wakes me up and says that they're having a party on the roof. We partied till 7am and I went to bed smiling. She asked me why am I all smiley, I tell her that I had more fun in that one night that in 6 months in India (well maybe except Varkala)! :)
In the morning, I'm all sleep deprived moving to Kho San road. The most touristic small stretch of road probably in the whole of SE Asia. Everything is compared to it, and if you see any movie that's shot in Thailand, for sure Kho San road will be in it. A few of the hostels that I checked were full, and I went to a hotel. Kho San road is crazy. It's full of shops selling t-shirts, shorts, dresses for $3 each, fake brands, fake documents (licenses/press/diplomas ...), different bugs, worms, crickets, scorpions, everybody wants you to go to the ping pong show. I wanted to go, but heard from everyone how disgusting it is, so didn't, western restaurants serving the best and cheapest food ever, clubs upon clubs upon clubs. Guys are walking with T-shirts saying "Here just to have fun". 7/11 on every corner, not only on Kho San road but everywhere in Thailand. With a huge variety of everything and a strong A/C it's the best store ever. Everybody smiles and greets you when you walk into the store (maybe not on Kho San road) and I'm learning how to smile again.
I'm practicing my Thai. Learning how to say "thank you". Khop kun ka, khop kun ka, khop kun ka. I repeat it 10 times, for half a day, saying thank you to everybody for no reason. But every time I say it, I need like a minute to remember it, I get out of taxi, wait a minute, don't go, don't start driving, just wait ... oh damn it, I forgot again! This language just doesn't make any sense to me :)
Food is so yummy, and there is so much of it, especially street food which is very famous in SE Asia. On one street, the street food is so famous, that even people in Ferraris come to eat it. A lot of it is spicy though, so I can't have it, the whole dish just looks red from all the chilies. Needless to say I learned pretty quickly "my pet!" - not spicy! Thais love their fish, salty fish, dried fish and sea products. Of course most of the time you have no idea what you order, or even what you eat, just point your finger at something and hope for the best :)
Bangkok is awesome! So easy, so fun, so yummy, so cheap! Best food, best massages, best fruit salads and banana pancakes. Kao San road has massage spas after massage spas. Half an hour foot massage $3, full hour body massage $7. I did a lot of massages, but I always thought that traditional massages away from the tourist area would be better. No way, after being 3 months in SE Asia and having many many massages, Kao San road massages are the best! You get out of the club at 2am, and the street reclining chairs all full of people getting a foot massage :) Massages are usually done in big room with 10-20 people getting massaged on the mattresses that cover the entire area of the room, kinda feels like a harem :)
Thai massages are very interesting. I understand why all guys just love it. The girl pretty much sits right on you, between your legs, on your butt, massaging almost everything. Getting into weird positions, massaging you with her hands, legs, elbows, feet, knees, walking on you, stretching you in positions you've never been stretched before. It's fun and good! :) Thai massages are very appropriate in Thailand and probably most spas offer happy endings.
While I was changing from a hotel to a hostel, a girl on the street asked someone where she can find a cheap hostel, I was walking right by and said that it's exactly where I'm going. Her name is Cassidy, and we hung out for 4 days together. She's only 21, but so mature, responsible, smart, funny, an amazing person. At 15 she already saved enough money from working as a babysitter and went to travel to New Zealand on her own!
When we were talking, she said a phrase "yesterday when I was in the jungle in Singapore..." huh??? I asked her to repeat ... yesterday? Singapore? It's so funny. Another guy I spoke with also said something like, "last week when I was riding a bike in Philippines". It's great travelling! :)
We went to some museums which weren't that great, and then to a palace. In Thailand everyone wears short stuff, the less the better it seems, but you should wear covering cloths for temples and important monuments. Sometimes they give it to you for free, sometimes you have to rent it, but in this palace not only you had to wear covered cloths (as I did), but it was to be a skirt, which you have to buy! WTH??? It's an obvious technique to rip tourists off, and I refused to go in.
In the evening we went out. All the bars are full, everybody is competing with the bar next door by playing the loudest music and by serving the cheapest cocktails. Buckets are very popular in here. They cost the cheapest, they're the biggest, with the most cheapest alcohol, giving you the biggest effect followed by the biggest hangover. I had one, it was disgusting. No more buckets for me, no matter how cheap they are. Sometimes they could cost as low as $1. Next we went to a club which was full of locals for some reason. We found one group of Westerners and came to dance with them. They had 2 local friends who were too much fun, dancing, singing, making fools of themselves. The white guys weren't so much fun though. One of them started talking to Cassidy, a minute later they're already making out. Well that's moving quickly I thought. The next minute she grabs me by the hand and drags me out of the club. What happened I ask her? She said that the guy asked "do you have to be with your friend all night, or can you come to my place?" She said that "I'm not a Thai hooker!" and stormed out of the club with me. We changed clubs. There I was dancing on the stage when one guy approached me and started dancing next to me. I asked him to show me his best moves, he grabbed me by the hips and started rubbing himself against me. I go find Cassidy and tell her that my night out is over, it's really not my scene. I feel exactly what she said to me one night "Everybody is too young, or too drunk, or French!" :) Thailand, and indeed most of SE Asia is full of drunken 20 year olds, and it's very very annoying! It's also summer, and everybody's on their school/uni vacation, and it's impossible to find someone my age. It's hot, it's cheap, it's a party place, it's easy, drugs are available on every corner, every bar advertises happy hour, free shots, buy 1 get 2 free, girls come free, it's a 20 year old paradise! People get so drunk that they can't walk straight, look straight, the dorm is empty till 3am, and when I wake up at 11, I try to quietly get out of the room not to wake anybody up.
It's impossible to sight see in Bangkok. Everything's closed for 2 hours for lunch. Even when I try to wake up early to go see a temple, a monument, a museum, I still have to have breakfast and get there, even if it's 10:30, it's already too late. The place shuts down in an hour and then what will I do for 2 hours until it opens up again? I've been to Bangkok for 2 weeks, and I didn't see much. To properly sight see, you need to wake up at 7, now you ask yourself ... is it possible to wake up at 7 on Kao San road?? After 1 day though I got so tired. I saw palaces, museums, took boats, I did so much, I was drugging my feet back to the hostel when I look at my watch. It's 4pm. 4pm??? Man, in Canada I would still be working for an hour, and in here I've seen so much, did so much, that I can barely walk, and I remember a joke "Work shortens your life by 9 hours a day". Consider commute and hour there and back, and its good 10 hours/day.
One evening when I returned back to the hostel, the manager told me to change room. I was thinking about something else, was kinda spaced out, and didn't pay much attention to it. I didn't even ask why. While I was moving to a different room a thought occurred to me. Why am I moving? I asked the manager and he told me it's because 2 friends came and they need to be together in the same room. If I had a friend they would do the same thing for me!! I could not believe them ... but I am with a friend!!  But by that time, it was already too late. And they stayed there just for 1 night!! I moved from a 6 bed girls dorm, to a 10 bed mixed dorm, on a top bunk (which I hate) and a locker which barely closes, shower that barely works and doesn't have any hooks in it, and guess what, I'm paying the same price! After that they told me the wrong bus to get to a market, and advised me to go by taxi to an island which is 4 hours away when buses go there every half an hour. I'll let you guess where the managers are from? India of course!
In Bangkok there is one street full of malls. Mall after mall after mall. One day Cassidy and I went for a mall day out. Sometimes you don't even need to get out on the street. Malls are full of the most modern cinemas I've ever seen. You can go to a first class movie (usually better for couples) where you sit on a love seat with blankets, pillows and full service during the movie. On the board that shows movie times you have trailers running next to each movie, humongous and excellent food courts, fountains, ocean world, discovery center, wax museums, fashion shows, best ice cream ever, best cakes, best stores. Bangkok feels like Las Vegas to me where everyone tries to out-compete everyone else.
In the evening went to a sky bar where "Hangover 2" was shot. The elevator wasn't working and while standing in the line waiting for it to be fixed we started chatting with 2 guys in front of us. They're from Belgium, both operating successful businesses in there. They said that they don't like Americans (Cassidy is from America, and I'm a close neighbour) cause they don't remember names, they just ask for names to be polite, but never actually remember them. I was wondering what's more impolite to forget names, or to never ask in the first place (they didn't!). They said that it's much better to be married, cause you can enjoy such a wonderful bar with your loved one. I asked them, what about a boyfriend, or a friend, or your parents? No they said, wife is much better. One of them is divorced, the other one has a gf who stayed at home. They didn't offer us drinks and Cassidy was bored out of her mind. Despite them, the sky bar is amazing. The best bar I've ever been to. It's made Hollywood style with live music, beautiful bar on an illuminated platform, a fountain, and all that on 50th floor overlooking the whole Bangkok. Cassidy had a flight that night and we had to leave. The guys left with us asking me what will I do by myself, and that they know a good area to party. I just took their map, made a mental note where that area is and sat in the cab. Cassidy said, didn't you notice they were flirting with you? Oh wow, when I think back it makes sense, but I guess I was so not interested, it completely flew over my head :)
I still don't have a slightest idea what to do in Bangkok or in Thailand, and for breakfast I sat myself in a restaurant and dissolved into LP. I look up and notice a single guy sitting on the table next to me. Hm ... I think, what are the chances of him sitting there, because of me! I'd say pretty high! I looked at him and gave him a hello smile. Adam asked me what I'm reading and I said LP. He wore sunglasses, and it's always tricky to flirt with a guy wearing sunglasses. He took them off, and yeah, he didn't look too bad, in fact he was very very cute. We chatted for an hour, and decided to do something more productive. LP came to the rescue and we went to China town. I don't know how, but we couldn't find it. We were walking back and forth, in circles. There supposed to be thousands of stalls selling everything on earth, but all we find is a major street with Chinese characters and nothing else :( Then we waited for a boat to take us back. Schedules are confusing and so are people. Some say there is boat, some say no boat. We waited for an hour getting soaked under the dripping roof, and at the end took a bus. We were so lucky, people who didn't know any English at all, pointed us to the bus that dropped us off right on Kao San road. We agreed to meet up for a drink later that night and things started evolving. For the next 3 days I was floating somewhere on cloud 8 or 9 in a fairytale designed especially for me :) We went to a museum, played pool, ate awesome food, went to bars, movies, to sky bar again, chilled by the pool in the hotel. There were couples there trying to make the "dirty dancing" lift in the water (http://cdn.blu-raydefinition.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/lift-600x338.jpg?d9c344), and they plainly sucked, screaming and wining, and not getting anywhere close to the pose they ended up in the water time after time. I was looking at it, and was itching to try it too. We did this pose in the circus, and I know how to jump into it and where the guy supposed to hold me. It's on the hip bones, and not on the stomach where the couples were doing. 1, 2, 3, I jump, and perfectly hold the pose in the air with straight back and straight legs, all stretched out :) I hope the couples didn't see us, I think they were sleeping, or pretending not to notice.
btw, I stayed underwater for 2 minutes and 45 seconds without air, my new record by far! :)
On our last day together we went to a trip around Bangkok. I don't know what happened but we barely talked. The trip was nice though. First we went to the floating market. Thais and SE Asians in general use the water a lot for transportation purposes. Most of the people live on river edges fishing for their living. On the floating market, there are more tourists than locals. LP advised to get to the town a day before and go to the market early in the morning before the Bangkok crowd arrives. It still is a cool experience as you get hooked to the selling boats checking out all the weird stuff they have for sale. I didn't buy anything, just had the famous Pho - beef noodle soup. We then went to a war museum built near a bridge that was used to supply weapons, and was bombed by Americans even though there were tens of prisoners of war tied to it. Next we went to a more interesting though just as painful place, a tiger palace. There are 20 or so tigers living in a zoo kind of place with 100s of tourists arriving daily to take pictures with them. Even though they claim that they feed the tigers before hand and exercise them before making a public lunch time appearance, when the tigers are having their siesta, there are many talks about drugging the tigers heavily to make them veeery calm and veeery sleepy. There are children working there who hold your hand while walking from tiger to tiger to relax you as well.
Back in the hotel Adam tells me that he has to pick up his friend in the airport. Yeah, I know I tell him, don't worry, I have stuff to do. No he says, I'm actually asking you to leave. He tells me that he hasn't seen his friend in ages and they need to catch up. I don't get it, he told me before how excited he is for me to meet his friend. I ask him if anything's wrong as I'm aware of my ability to blab stuff without realizing the effect it makes on people. I pack my stuff in silence and move back to the hostel. I feel like I've just been pushed from the cliff. I don't understand what went wrong and what makes things more difficult is that it ended in a second and I know that I'll never find out, will never see him again, and will not have the chance to thank him for the wonderful time that we had. I sit in the hostel in a terrible mood on the verge of crying, but an hour later I convince myself to get out and to get it out of my mind. I'm travelling, Thailand is great and I want to be in a good mood. Though for many days later I play the time we spent in my mind thinking of the breaking point, trying to understand ... 2 months later, he added me on facebook and apologized for behaving in the way he did, apparently he has a gf back home and all over the sudden started to feel guilty about it. I'm not happy about it, but I'm happy that he had enough guts to tell me that.
In the hostel I was talking to one guy about my plans, where I'm gonna be, what I'm gonna do. I have 3 months in Thailand, so I have as much time as I want to hang out in Bangkok. 3 months? He asks me. Everybody is given 30 day visa on arrival. When I checked visas for Thailand, it talked about a 3 months visa, but only if you actually make one. Free visa on arrival is only 30 days, and I was so sure that I have 3 months that I didn't even check my passport. Sh*t! I only have 2 weeks left in Thailand, and all I've been to is Bangkok. Not that I regret it, but I have to move fast. I quickly pack my bags and leave first thing in the morning to the island of Ko Samet.

https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/Bangkok


Saturday, 6 October 2012

McLeod Ganj & New Delhi


I can barely lift my suitcase anymore, it got transformed into an overfed monster, but an elderly guy at the bus station put it on his head and climbed the ladder to the top of the bus to put it on the roof. He got a good tip for that :)
We got very tired from the bus ride or from the climate change (from boiling hot to chilling) that we slept all the time, slept and ate, slept and ate, but could also be a group effect, when I'm by myself I'm much more efficient. I got tired of doing nothing, grabbed Ally and went to a waterfall. The 3km walk to a natural thing was not natural at all, it was filled with endless stalls, traffic and hundreds of honking cars. We didn't even go to the top, and I didn't even take a picture. On the way back we bumped into Rich who nobody added on facebook, and nobody wrote him where we stay. 1 day of Rich filled energy is enough to last a year. He wanted to spend another day in Amritsar and leave the day after, and I almost told him that they can see the temple in the evening or early in the morning, but my brain caught up in time and told my mouth to be quiet :)
I have about a week before my visa runs out and I still have no idea where to go. I went to a book store and picked up China Lonely Planet. Initially I thought to go to Beijing and make my way down the coast, but after looking at different itineraries of coast routes, and internal routes and all of China routes, my head started spinning, I am not ready for yet another difficult and huge country. Besides, visas seem to be hard to get, and apparently there is no Chinese embassy in Delhi, only in Mumbai. I went to internet cafe, opened Google maps, and stared at the world map thinking of where to go next. Europe? Central America? SE Asia?? I'm looking at tickets, prices, visas, I leave the internet cafe 2 hours later stressed out and almost crying. I have no idea what to do :(
Andy is leaving soon and I'm not in the best of moods. Feeling a bit foggy inside and waiting for the moment to hit me.
We wanted to have a quiet evening, buy cheese, olives, white wine a relax on the balcony. Found a white wine store and asked them to put a bottle in the fridge with a pick up in a few hours. A few hours later we come back only to find out that the owner took the bottle out of the fridge because he thinks it won't taste good! What?? We were standing there in disbelief!! We went to a beer store instead and took 6 bottles of ice cold beer, at least they know what tastes good and what doesn't.
It was funny when Ally looked at me, at Andy, at me, at Andy. She said that we have the strangest dynamics she's ever seen. I bet she's right! :) We always pick at each other, disagree with each other, can't decide what we're gonna share for dinner, have different views, dreams, perspectives. When Andy and Ally are talking, they share common interest in movies, books, music, something that I’ve never seen, read or even heard of. And when they talk, my percentage of participation hovers around zero.
 Andy is like India to me. I learned to accept and appreciate something/one that/who I don't understand, and a world away from my ideas.
Ally is a nice, sweet girl who still says thank you and excuse me when ordering or asking for something, words that I haven't heard in a long while now. She said that India is making her tougher, she can actually call a waiter and ask for the bill or send an order back if it's wrong, and she's afraid that when she'll come back home, she'll go back to her shy self. We were laughing, and told her that it's not a problem. If the situation will arise again, all she has to do is to come back to India and order one train ticket and she'll be right back on track :)
While Ally and I were chatting, Andy pops out of the room all white, I've never seen him so scared ... there is a scorpion in our bathroom!! I got excited, but he started freaking out, I was lying in the bed, what if he were to crawl in the bed?? Is he poisonous, how do we get him out??? Andy give me your shoe! I say - Why MY shoe??? Because it's heavier, give it to me now! I have no idea about scorpion behavior, can it run, can it jump, can it hiss and breathe fire out of its mouth?? How does it act? I took the shoe and smashed it. I felt very bad, I would've rather got a glass and paper and set it free outside, but we had no glass in our room :( Felt bad, kinda killing one of my kind (I'm a scorpio by horoscope) :(
Andy left to Delhi to meet his friend, and Ally went with him. I keep telling myself that everything will be alright, but if everything will be alright, why do I have tears in my eyes? Everything will be alright, everything will be alright! I think this will be my last trip. I've been moving all my life and it hurts too much to say goodbye so many times.
Next day I closed myself in the room and lied in bed, feeling the "hit".
Andy's gone. Is it time to meet my soul mate? While I'm looking at all the guys who are passing by and considering my chances with the bright red mo-hock dude, I'm wondering about psychics and their "abilities". Do they predict the future, or actually influence it? I'm going to chose paths in my life which correspond to psychics predictions. Good that my predictions were all positive, otherwise I might just sit there and do nothing thinking that psychic said that I won't have money in my life, so what's the use of trying?? Psychic said that I won't have a significant relationship and I won't marry, so might as well just sleep around. Psychic said that the world will end in December 2012, so might as well spend all my money or gamble it away.
McLeod Ganj is home to Dalai Lama and from here he governs Tibet. India was kind enough to give Tibetan refugees land, and now in McLeod Ganj and in nearby Daramasala there are over 130,000 refugees. Indeed this town doesn't feel Indian at all, and the Indians you see are mostly tourists.
Went to a talk of an ex political prisoner. In 1949 China invaded Tibet on the claims that it was always part of China. Tibet is a beautiful natural high plateau with Buddhist residents who protect and conserve the nature. Since Chinese invasion the forests are cut, wild animals are gone, water is polluted, people's freedom is taken away. The man who talked said that they put "Free Tibet" posters around the collage when Chinese police came in and arrested him and his friend for 5 years in prison. They were tortured, they put nails under their fingernails. They now give injections and use electricity to make prisoners mentally disabled. His friend had died from tortures. On one day the prisoners protested the Chinese flag that was put up on the prison during the Tibetan holiday. The authority let 500 soldiers into the courtyard area where the prisoners were protesting and bit them savagely. After the beatings the whole floor was covered in blood, and 8 people were killed. Life in exile is good, but their families are suffering. They don't have any contact with their families, since the communist Chinese government watches every step and every move of political prisoners' families. China imported millions of ethnic Chinese into Tibet to mix the population so much so that the Tibetans will lose their identity. The jobs are mostly given to Chinese and not to Tibetan. Tibetans try to protest, and so far 42 people have publically burnt themselves to raise awareness, but the Chinese government says that they're mentally ill. The only way to escape to India is to go through Himalayas on foot through high altitude, harsh and unknown conditions for months. A walk to India or to death?
Dalai Lama's perspective: Tibet is big with small population. We need the help of the Chinese to build infrastructure, get better health and education, we cannot do it on our own!
When youth confronted him, he said that they're outnumbered by the Chinese, they need hundreds of thousands of weapons, and how are they going to get it? From whom? And how are they going to bring it to Tibet?
My perspective: I think that he knows the independence is impossible, and though he would like to have independence, he can't say it out loud. People will get disturbed, more blood will be shed. He's helpless, and he just tries the best option there is for Tibet. Appearance of peace. Other countries won't help Tibet, they won't fight for it. They have nothing to gain and go to war against a huge communist army and an economic giant of cheap goods that make Western living affordable. There is no hope for Tibet :(
Now I'm very happy that I didn't go to China, I'm very mad at it, and don't want to spend any money to support it!
Went to a restaurant which showed a documentary about Dalai Lama. In there met a guy who told me a story about him being scammed. He arrived in Delhi for the first time, bought a train ticket and went into a station. At the x-ray machine he was stopped by a station employee, was asked to present his ticket for a check, and was informed that his train was cancelled. Why won't you go to Kashmir? Meanwhile I'm sitting there and shaking my head, didn't you read Lonely Planet??? I mean, that's the first thing you do when you come to a country is check a list of common scams. And Kashmir is number 1! If it were to happen in reality (a canceled train), which never happens, but say it does. They would've offered him help to get a ticket to the next train, to take a few trains with connections, if there are no tickets, then take general class. Not a 2 day train or a flight into hell knows where! He agreed and bought a boat package for an insane amount. In there, didn't get the service that he was promised, they were following him around anywhere he went, and then requested a huge tip which luckily he didn't give. It's hard to know where is the truth just on arrival to India. That's why Mumbai and Delhi are huge tourist rip-off cities. Tourists just don't know any better on arrival. It reminds me of a bag that I fixed for 100 rps, when it should've cost no more than 10.
Woke up early to go to Dalai Lama's birthday. Same number of people as in the border ceremony, but everybody's sitting calmly, relaxed, there is order, everybody's quiet. It's so much more important than the border ceremony, yet what a difference! Then too many people walked through the isle, I couldn't figure out where he is, I guess he's the one under the big umbrella. I couldn't hear the translation too well, and my butt and legs were hurting from sitting in the tiny space that I had, so I left, but at least I saw his face :)
Walked around the complex enjoying the views and looking at Tibetan prayer rituals. When they pray, they put their hands on a piece of cloth, sit on their knees, slide forward till completely lying on the ground, slide backwards, stand up and put their hands together in front of their chests, and like that many many times. No wonder they're in such a great shape! :)
Free Tibet!!
p.s. I bought a ticket to Thailand. It's close, it's cheap and they give a free 30 day visa on arrival.
Back to Delhi...
I like Delhi much more this time around. Actually I've noticed that I like places more the 2nd time around ... all except Buenos Aires. I've been there 3 times, and every time, oh, what a nice city. Half an hour later ... I hate it !!
Delhi is green and modern, I'm travelling in an excellent subway system, looking at all the modern women who wear something else than a sari. The memory of real India is very distant and unbelievable now.
Went to see my friends whom I met in Chile. They live in a modern neighbourhood built for the sole purpose of providing residence for the employees of big companies which set up their offices nearby. Even though the buildings are new, they're not maintained and almost black on the outside, there are still no sidewalks and some cows, and among the boutique stores kids are begging for money. Had to go through 2 security checks before entering the building. They said they were worried about cycle rickshaws from the subway station, and were surprised when found out that I paid the local price :)
I was surprised of the difference between rural and city life. They don't know their neighbours and have only 1 child. They have a cook and a cleaner who cleans for 3 hours every day and it costs $100/month! They use seatbelts and turn signals, something that I haven't seen in India yet!
Woke up early to go shopping. 20 cycle rickshaws asked me where I want to go, red fort, Jama Masjid? I didn't even pay attention, didn't get irritated at all. There were many beggars, in very bad condition. Some of them shouldn't even be alive. It's never good to give money to children. The money doesn't go to them, it goes to their keepers. The kids might die, but at least new children won't be disfigured and spend their lives begging.
My last day in India and I'm very tempted to buy a sari. I entered the first sari shop, saw 3 saris and bought one. Usually a big mistake, cause I have no idea how much the saris cost, but I liked the owner, he knew good English and seemed very honest. My friends took me to a mall where they cost at least $100. I got this one for $38 including a tailored blouse which was ready in 2 hours. Later when I found a whole sari street, I was pleased that I paid a very good price for a very nice wedding style red sari. I also bought bangles and a tikka (forehead jewelry), and I'm all equipped for something very special. Although I still have no idea what this special occasion will be :)
Now I'm looking for a Ganesh statue. Some tuk-tuk wanted to charge me 200. That's way too much. Even if you want to rip tourists off, you should say 100. 200 is even too much for Canada! One driver was driving me around with a hope to get a commission, but too bad it was Sunday and most of the stores were closed.
I'm in a market, but there is no street food and no restaurants. I asked for a recommendation of a restaurant and was sent to one. It was packed, it's recommended in LP as well, but it's super expensive and the food is really bad. It was so bad that I didn't even finish it. Why is it so popular? As always when I eat spicy food, my nose starts to run a little. I've been outside for only a few hours, but when I blew my nose, the whole napkin was black!
In the metro, the end wagon (or 2) are dedicated to women only. At the last station, the end wagon becomes the front wagon, so at the end of the lines there are guards spreading themselves wide around the doors letting women exit first before the stampede of guys will begin. With women and men clash I'm sure it prevents quite a lot of groping! At every station near women's wagons there are guards whistling at any guys who want to get in.
Went to see the lotus palace. Didn't like it at all. It's meant to be a place of worship for all religions. It's nice, but it wasn't worth the trip. So many people there, it's crazy! I jumped the queue 3 times. Once to get into the temple grounds, 2nd time for shoes, 3rd time to get into the temple. Payback time! hahahahaha!! Saw a couple of Russian tourists. So out of place. So clean, very well dressed, the guy was even wearing white pants! For who are they dressed like that??
Did some shopping in the backpacking area. No more problems with bargaining. Price for a small Ganesh was 500, I bought the big one for 500. Felt good not to feel bad :) Also bought a table runner and pillow cases. It's hard to imagine what my future home would look like, and if it will fit at all, but for $1 for a piece, one cannot go wrong.
All day of running around, and I'm exhausted. At 10pm I find out that I don't have enough money, all the ATMs don't work, and I have to go 2kms to the train station :S I go to sleep after 12, to wake up at 2 to go to the airport. When I ordered a taxi to the airport, I asked if there are other people going because the price is per taxi, not per person. They told me that there isn't anyone else, and what a surprise it was when another woman sat in the taxi next to me. There is nothing better than to get ripped off at the last hour in India! Oh well, at least I jumped the queue 3 times :)
During the security check where the lady officer metal scanned me, she couldn't do it in public, and every woman is taken into a small room which is covered from public view. At the x-ray luggage scan, some Russian girls had half a bottle of whisky with them that they couldn't take on the plane. One of the girls almost started crying, and told them that she'll drink it right now! At 3am!!!
What I've noticed in the airport is that all the Indian people have a very fair skin complexion, pretty much like mine. Nobody's too dark. That's why they all want to be light, because lightness is associated with higher caste and includes plane rides! Indeed most Indians have never been outside their country or even outside their city.
At 3am all the duty free shops are open, and I'm walking among the perfume ads with my jaw dropped. All the ads show usually semi naked women, all hot and ready, with their breasts out and grabbing some guy. What are we doing to Indian culture, these pictures and ideas have no place in India. No wonder Western women get so harassed in here, they don't realize that it's not real!
I'm leaving India, and after so much hassle, sweat, fighting, bargaining, effort ... I'm feeling sad. India is a great country, though it requires a lot time and patience to understand it. I've accumulated new strengths, new ideas, and new appreciation. There is no country in the world like it, it's something unique that you won't find anywhere else. 3 months have passed now since I left, I'm looking back at pictures and I miss it. It's definitely Incredible India!


https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/McLeodGanj

Few new pics are added to the end of the album:
https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/NewDelhi