A Travellerspoint blog

March 2008

Chillin' in Goa and on to Nepal

Hello all - Lynette writing here.

I'm writing from the legendary city of Kathmandu in Nepal! The air is cooler here and a lot less humid than India which is a nice change. We flew here yesterday very early in the morning - so early in fact that we had to wake up at 2:30 a.m. to get to the airport on time. But more on Nepal later - let me tell you a little bit about Goa, India which is where we spent a little less than a week.

India overall was one wild ride after another. We were excited to go to Goa because it is known for its laid back atmosphere and less conservative culture - meaning I could actually wear a tank top and Dave and I could hold hands in public. We thought it would be a great way to recover from the nonstop touring we did in the Rajasthan area of India. After arriving in Goa we were picked up and taken to our hotel in Calangute. Right away I did not like Calangute. It is the busiest beach town in Goa and since we were there at peak season it was packed full of Indians on vacation with there families etc. The beach itself was disgusting. There was trash everywhere and it was completely packed with people everywhere - mostly groups of Indian men laughing and playing. As soon as we saw the beach we turned right around and went back to our hotel. The hotel itself was ok but our room was right next to the kitchen and so we heard loud kitchen noises way into the night, and then in the morning we were greeted by loud noises by children in the reveberating marble lobby. This was not the relaxing time we were hoping it would be. I was very unhappy to say the least and we called our travel agent and asked to be changed to a different hotel. Due to the holidays (Easter and Holi - Hindu holiday where they throw colors on each other - fun!) and this being India our travel agent wasn't exactly responsive to our request.

This was definitely a low point on our trip. India is a very trying and challenging place. Foreigners are treated basically like walking ATM's and you are constantly harrassed by beggers, sales people, and touts. The daily confrontations with poverty is overpowering and the materialism that exists here is unreal. People offer help without being asked and then expect to be paid. You absolutely can trust no one who wants to help you or give you something which is sad because you have to have your guard up constantly. The sales people know to play on our emotions and are skilled at making you feel like you hurt their feelings by not buying something. We had one incident where a woman asked us if we wanted to buy a sarong or blanket and we said no. Later we actually bought a sarong and blanket off another woman. The first woman came up to Dave and I and said in this pathetic hurt voice - "hey do you remember me? I asked if you wanted something and you said no." This is a tactict to play upon the western guilt tendency. We are are all rich in the eyes of the Indians. It was getting to us and we were both ready to move on. We had been looking forward to Goa because we had heard it wasn't like that. It was supposed to be relaxing and laid back but seeing that Calangute was just as busy as other parts of India our spirits sunk. Then there was the "sunscreen" incident.

Dave and I went to a pharmacy in Calangute and bought what we thought was a major brand "Banana Boat" of Sunscreen - SPF 30. We used it the next day and spent just a couple hours in the sun. It didn't take long for us to start seeing the effects of sunburn on all exposed parts of our bodies when we got back to the hotel. We just couldn't understand how we got so burnt. My shoulders got hit the worst on me and are still a bit sore and now are starting to itch. Dave figured it out - we were sold bogus sunscreen. Someone filled Banana Boat Sunscreen containers with generic lotion and sold them. We bought two bottles of it and both were filled with the same lotion. It said on the bottle unscented and ungreasy which was not the case as the "sunscreen" smelled like flowers and was pretty greasy. This is what I mean by not trusting anyone - you can't even trust your local pharmacy in India.

We eventually took matters regarding our hotel in Goa into our own hands and found a cheap resort in a more remote beach north of Calangute called Vagator and ended up having such a wonderful time we didn't want to leave. Goa was made famous by the hippies in the 60's as a place to take drugs, dance all night, and then zone by the beach all day. In parts there is still this kind of vibe but we also saw lots of European visitors and families here. It is extremely cheap in Goa - even cheaper than the rest of India. Dave and I would eat at a restaurant and both get something to drink and a meal and the total cost was under $6 dollars. The resort we moved to was awesome and relaxing. It was a short walk to the beach and many off the wall shack restaurants. One night we went to this bar called the Nine Bar which overlooks the ocean and plays trance music while the sun sets over the Arabian sea. It was magical and we both had a thought that was surprising - we didn't want to leave India!

The other really fun thing we did in Goa was rent a scooter and drive to a secluded beach called Aswem and eat at this great french beach shack restaurant we were told about by a girl we met earlier in our India travels who lives in Goa. The roads are not well marked and Dave and I were driving all over the place and drove in a circle at one point. A friendly man (did not want money - yay!) on a motorcyle ended up showing us how to get to this beach. At one point he pulled over and told us to go over a bridge and turn left. We thought we went over something bridge like and so turned left which was wrong and we ended up lost again. But by some strange coincidence the man we had followed earlier showed up on the street we were lost on and again we followed him to the correct turn off. The bridge that we were supposed to go over was a very large bridge, in fact it was the bridge used in the Bourne Supremacy movie where Matt Damon's girlfriend is shot and the jeep goes into the water. Dave had never driven a scooter before but after a bit of practice he was a pro and drove us around safely. It was a great day. We ended our Goa trip by spending several hours before heading to the airport bargaining for stuff at the Anjuna flea market. It is sooooo much fun to buy stuff because it is so cheap.

Although we were sad to go, we left Goa on Wednesday March 26th and flew back to Delhi. The next day early in the morning we flew to Kathmandu, Nepal. The flight was only 1 hour and 30 minutes from Delhi to Kathmandu so that was nice. Kathmandu is the biggest city in Nepal and there is a developed tourist area called Thamel which is where we are staying. It is really fun and packed full of cafes, internet places, adventure companies, guest houses, hostels, cheap hotels, restaurants serving all kinds of cusine, shops, and on and on. We liked it here immediately and because we had just come from crazy India - we were barely affected by the traffic and pollution of Kathmandu which you read about. The sales people are no where near as pushy and we just feel better here. We are not sure of our plans but plan to do some sort of trek and tour. We are here for 28 days which is quite a bit of time.

Take care and until we write again!

Lynette

Hi. - Dave here. In a few days I'll have tons of photos from Nepal to show, so here's one last batch of shots from India. They are in no particular order.

You can take photos of people in India, but they usually want money afterward. Like this woman did. Just a small amount though so its worth it.
india_womancarry.jpg
india_waterpalace.jpg
india_wallboy.jpg

Here's the hallway on the train from Mumbai to Goa.
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This is our cabin area.
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Indian spices
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I love the bamboo scaffolding.
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india_pipeman.jpg

Paints
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We went to a fabrics shop and bought some things, including Lynette's outfit seen here which they made from scratch in one night from material and pattern she selected.
india_lynette.jpg

A holy cow
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Some of the trucks have these huge loads strapped to them. They dwarf the truck and fill the road. And they look like at any moment they will bust.
india_truckload.jpg
india_braceletlady.jpg
india_musicians.jpg
india_bowl.jpg

The trucks in some areas are painted with very decorative and colorful designs. - Even including trucks with hazardous chemicals!
india_acid.jpg
india_whitetemple.jpg
india_candles.jpg
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india_doorstatues.jpg

Here is the place where Ghandi's body was cremated.
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india_lynettedoor.jpg
india_manbike.jpg
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india_nighttemple.jpg

In many towns there are streets of tiny shops with people making all kinds of things.
india_papershop.jpg
india_streetshop.jpg

india_schoolgirls.jpg

our email:
lschimpf@gmail.com
dbuck242@yahoo.com

Posted by schuckley 21:05 Comments (1)

India - Train from Mumbai to Goa

Hello. This is Dave writing. We are still in India.

A few days ago we arrived in Mumbai for 2 days. We met with my cousin Grace's friends who moved from the US to Mumbai 6 weeks ago for their jobs. We met them for dinner. They were really nice and we had a great time. It was nice to just hang out with some people from back home that we had a connection with through family. They were really kind to make a long drive by cab to our hotel location so we wouldn't have to find our way around town. The food was just OK but the company was refreshing.

The next day we saw a few sites in Mumbai. Afterward we needed to make our way back to our hotel to pick up our bags. But we didn't know where we were or how to get back to the hotel. We tried haling two cabs but neither driver knew how to speak or read english. A passerby tried assisting us with communicating with a driver but he also was not profitient enough in English. Finally we stopped a man who could read the written address we had. He took one look at it then looked up and pointed across the street. There was our hotel right across from us the whole time! We couldn't believe we'd been all around town and then ended up on the very street we began from simply by chance. We had a good long laugh.

After picking up our bags we made way for the train terminal for an 11:00 PM departure on an overnight train to Goa, (a touristy coastal state with lots of beaches where we are now and will be for another 5 days before leaving India.) The train ride was quite an experience. When we arrived at the station it was mobbed with people. It seemed like total chaos. We made our way through the crowds to our platform even though we were 4 hours early just to make sure we knew where we'd have to go at departure time. Then we headed back to the waiting area we found a huge hall with mostly Indian people sitting everywhere. In the seats, on the floor, squashed together as far as the eye could see. The air was hot and damp even with the many fans overhead. But we happen to see a sign that noted "upper class waiting room upstairs." Yippee - Our travel agent had booked us an upper class cabin ticket so we were so thankful to see this sign. So we went up to what, compared to downstairs, seemed like paradise. The smaller room was much more modern and only had a few people waiting there. There were lots of empty seats and several air conditioners. Since I had been feeling ill all day from a relapse of the stomach bacteria I thought I'd gotten rid of a few days earlier I quickly sprawled out on one of the lines of chairs and took a nap. Lynette watched the news on the flat screen television which to her disappointment was in Hindi, not English.

An hour before our departure we went down to the lower level to find some snacks before going over to the train platform. Seeing that we were foreigners, one of the many Indian porters came up to us and asked us where we were going. Now from experience we know that no one here in India offers to assist you with anything without something in return, so we figured we'd need to tip this guy, but in this chaotic situation we felt the assistance was welcomed. So we let him lead us to the best snack stand and help us pick out the right crackers and chips we'd probably like. Then, carrying our snack bags he lead us through the crowds to the platform. After a garbbled announcement came over the PA he informed us that the train was delayed by about 30 minutes. So he went and tracked down a luggage cart that looked more like a primitive flat wooden wheel barrel for us to sit on since all the benches were taken by the mobs of people. He tried to make idle conversation with us but his accent was very thick and it was hard making most of it out so we found ourselves nodding and smiling a lot. After a while he ran off so we thought, "hey maybe we'll get off without having to tip this guy." When the train finally pulled up you could see through the windows that the cars were packed with people sitting and standing filling the aisles all the way up to the doors like they were about to fall out. Regardless, some of the people on the platform jumped onto the entrance steps before the train even fully stopped so that they'd be the first to get seats once the masses started boarding. Lynette and I were kind of in a daze from all the commotion and were really confused as to which car to get on. We found what we thought was the right car but didn't see our name posted on the passenger list pasted near the car door. Then from out of nowhere this porter comes running back up to us and grabs us to come down to the other end of the car to board. To our relief we saw our names on the sheet posted there. But right as we were about to board we were stopped by about 6 uniformed guards with machine guns. At first we thought our fears of someone smuggling drugs in our bags and having to spend the rest of our lives in a hellish foreign prison were about to come true. But then we saw all eyes from the crowd leading to the back of the line of guards. A very important Indian man and his wife and child made their way through the guards and boarded the same car we were to be on. A man nearby told us that it was a very important criminal attorney who had done many mob trials. We didn't know if he was the defending or prosecuting attorney though so we didn't know if we should be happy or worried that we were on the same train car. In either case we didn't have to worry too much about our bags being stolen in the middle of the night because there were about 3 or 4 armed guards sitting in the entrance ways at both ends of the car all night. After the craziness of them boarding the train died down we were allowed to get on. The porter lead us down a hall of curtains with bunks behind them and at the end behind another curtain was our small cabin area. It was actually nicer than we thought it would be. It was air conditioned and at least we didn't have to share the room with anyone. We even had what seemed like clean linens and pillow. When we entered the cabin to put our bags down the porter cornered us inside and scawfed at the small money I tried to tip him. He demanded 500 rupees which is a huge fee for such a service. Most tips here are between 10 and 50 rupees. He said it was the required porter fee that he had to give to the office. I said, hey- you never told us it was going to be that much before. He just shrugged and refused to leave without the money. Even though he was a scrawny gaunt faced man and I knew I could take him he was kind of scarey. He had this crazy look in his bloodshot eyes, and I think he'd been drinking so I didn't know what he would pull. So I decided to concede and give him the dough. Afterall 500 rupees is a lot here but it amounts to about maybe 10 US dollars. After all that he even had the gaul to ask for a tip on top of that fee but we flatly said no. After about 4 more times of him asking and us saying no he got the hint and asked to shake hands then disappeared down the hall probably to assault some other unsuspecting foreigners. We were too tired to care and after getting comfortable and having a few snacks we went to bed on the fold down bunks. They were narrow and hard, but after the long day it didn't matter and we fell fast asleep.

That's all for now. You all take care.

Dave
dbuck242@yahoo.com

Lynette
lschimpf@gmail.com

Posted by schuckley 04:55 Comments (1)

India and photos

We are finishing our 12 day tour of Rajasthan. We had a driver who took us by car to several cities. The shortest ride was around 3 hours but most ranged between 5 and even 8 hours. That's a long time to put up with the crazy India traffic. Our driver is nice, very helpful. But like most people here, he likes to weave back and forth through traffic, pass vehicles in the opposite lane narrowly missing oncoming traffic, and just generally drive like a bat out of hell. He has this race-car-driver attitude and even refers to himself as Jeff Gordan, Earnhardt and the like. Yesterday we drove from Jodhpur to Udaipur. He said it would be about 6 hours but he got us there in just under 5. I was thankful for less time on the roads but the fact that most of the drive was through hilly, windey roads made it seem even longer than 6. Lynette and I were bouncing back and forth in the back seat containing our nasua as he whizzed through countless picturesque villages and beautiful terrain that presented some great potential photos. But by the time I got my camera into position and snapped the shot all I'd get is a blurry view of something 20 yards past what I was shooting for.

Lynette and I both picked up a little stomach bug. Oddly enough we think it was from a McDonalds here in India. But who knows for sure. For several days we both had the hershey squirts. I was happy though that it wasn't the "run to the bathroom in a hurry or I'll burst" type of thing. That was up until the one day when that all changed. Half way through a 4 hour car ride from Ranthampor to Jaipur I got what started out as intense stomach cramp then turned into the fight of my life to not make massive doody in my pants. Only one other time in my life have I had such devilish poo pains. That was at Disneyland in California where I could at least run to one of the many comfortable facilities in the park. But here I was on a bumpy road in the middle of the Indian desert with nothing but run down villages, herds of camels, cows, and goats, as well as the countless Indian onlookers who seem to have enough reason to stare. Now in such a situation running behind a crumbling building to relieve myself wouldn't have been the worst thing but after considering the logistics it wasn't my first choice. I decided to see if I could tough it out. First I asked Lynette to find her stash of Immodium which, in the end, I think is what saved me. But first I had to wait for it to take effect. In the meantime I clenched like the dickens. Every time the car hit the slightest bump, and there was no shortage of them, I thought I would lose the battle. I pounded my thigh, gritted my teeth and held on for dear relief. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity the agony began to subside. I had successfully held the flood gates. All I have to say is "Thank you makers of Immodium."

We both tried to resist taking one of our three doses of antibotics because we didn't want to use them so early in the trip in fear of running out later, but after a few days of not getting better we gave in and took them. Now we are feeling good.

Most of the mattresses so far in India have been about 4 inches thick on top of a wooden panel. Not the most comfortable. The pillows are hardly pillows at all. So thin I barely notice them. The linens ranged from questionable to bad to worse. Usual dingy and grayed like they've been used for years. At one place the sheets were so old that there were two large holes worn through the center. The strange thing is these aren't horrible hotels. They are actually on the nice side. But it seems they place their attention on different things than we do back in the states. On the exterior the hotels may look like palaces. They decorate the insides with their versions of extravagant detail and flourishes. But then the plumbing is old and won't work properly. Or the floors and walls are cracked, dingy and stained. The room doors and cabinets will be made of partical board with ugly delapidated laminate. Its really hard to explain. Each place seemed to have a different issue. One place the AC didn't work. Another had a mosquito problem. And the electricity goes off everywhere. Usually its only for a few minutes but here in Udaipur it goes off for three hours from 11:00 to 2:00 everyday.

The bathrooms aren't as bad as I thought or read that they would be. They do have a lot of the squat toilets but they aren't as filthy as I expected. If those aren't adventurous enough for you there's always the street urinals.
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And if that doesn't thrill you just go anywhere.
pee1.jpg

Before we left for the trip I had a ton of dental work done. But wouldn't you know it, a few weeks ago one of my crowns cracked and half of it broke off. Luckily I found a nice little dental depot here in India and got fixed right up. (just kidding) My mom works at a dentist office back home. If she and the doc ever get patients that worry about visiting the dentist they can show them this photo and remind them that it could be worse.
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The city streets are crazy. So much going on in such a narrow space. And look at the mass of wires that drape from building to building and pole to pole. What a mess.
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Its common here but very strange to walk down a street and see cars, rickshaws, and motorcycles whizzing by as elephants walk at their own slow pace and cows stand motionless blocking the road.
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I've always wanted to see a real snake charmer. I got my chance. This snake was really eyeing me, and moved towards me looking like it was ready to attack. Even though the guy kept reassuring me that the venom had been removed it didn't sooth my worries. You can read my body language that I was quite uncofortable. But what a great experience.
dave_snake.jpg

We really feel like human photo-ops. I had that one encounter in Malaysia and Lynette mentioned several instances here in India where people have asked to take their pictures with us. People are just interested in us because we look so different. They stare at us constantly like we are from another planet. At one temple I started sketching and so many people were coming up to look over my shoulder as I drew the buildings. It was fun, but it really put the pressure on me to do a good job. Then there happened to be a Malaysian camera crew there filming a documentary. As I was sketching the temple they asked me if they could film me drawing. That was pretty cool. Maybe I'll end up on TV in Malaysia!video_sketch.jpg

This looks really safe! At least the driver has a helmet. There's actually another child on the other side too.
india_motorcycle.jpg

We got to see the Lotus temple which is a beautiful structure that looks like a huge Lotus flower and slightly resembles Sydney Opera House.
Lotus_temple.jpg

Lots of streets filled with bazaars and stores. We are getting a little better at haggling now with some practice. Lynette is definitely better than I am.
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We rode elephants up this long path up to an amazing fort. It was about a 20 minute ride. There was a huge line of elphants going both ways along the narrow path. In some places it jammed up and I was fearing a massive stampede if one of the elephants had decided to freak out. But it was so much fun.
elephant1.jpg
Didn't get any shots of us on the elephant but heres proof. See the shadow of the tail.
elephant2.jpg

Pushkar was a nice town. But there is a holy lake where the priests try to con you into donating huge amounts of money. First, as you begin to walk down the steps to the water they hand you a dish of flower petals, spices, and other oddities, to be thrown into the water as a blessing. When we said "no thanks" they insisted that it was free. So we took them. Then they followed us down to the waters edge and split us up. One priest for each of us so we were more easily influenced. They recited these long prayers where we repeated each phrase. By the end they are inserting lines saying that "I will donate such and such amount of money." My guy was asking for 50 to 100 american dollars which is about 4000 rupees - a huge amount. (Most donations and tips are around 20 rupees.) I got up and gave the guy 10 rupees. He got all pissed saying "what's with the 10 rupees - you ask me to do this for you..." I stopped him and said "Hey, I didn't ask you to do anything." and walked off. Lynette's guy was telling her that if she didn't donate a large sum that she would have bad karma for one day." But nothing bad happened so we figure he must have been lying. :-) Kind of a shame that such a holy place is turned into such a mockery. If they hadn't pulled all that we probably would have just donated more money than we did.
Here's Lynette being worked on by the priest.
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pushkar_view.jpg

We've seem so many temples, palaces and forts. But this one tops them all. The Taj Mahal.
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Here are some others.
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We got to experience a royal wedding one night. They do this long procession down the street with elephants, camels, chariots, and a mass of people dancing and having fun. There was a string of men carrying these huge lanterns on their heads. What a sight. It was really fun.
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Posted by schuckley 03:24 Comments (1)

Incredible chaotic India!

-17 °C

(Note: We wrote and tried to post the following blog two days ago but our connection went out before we could post it for viewing. We are now in Pushkar, India where we have been able to find another place with internet access.)

Lynette and Dave here. Sorry no pictures but the internet connections have not been very good. We are hoping that we will come across a more modern town with newer quicker computers but so far no luck. We have been in India since Tuesday March 4th. Right off the bat it was crazy. The airport is rundown and the bathrooms are pretty rough. There was actually a woman sleeping in the Ladies room I used. The most crazy thing here has to be the driving. There are rules but absolutely no one pays any attention to them. All the cars have scratches on their sides, front ends and bumpers. Not only do they NOT file an insurance claim when two cars bump into one another they don't even stop. We saw a car wedge between a bus and another car right in front of us and scratched both sides and when the traffic moved everyone just went on their way. No one even got angry! They do not use their turn signals and if you want to pass the car, horse drawn carriage, camel, rick shaw, bicycle, motorcycle, or elephant in front of you - just honk your horn and go for it. Nuts and scarey!

We spent two days in Delhi and hired a guide to take us around for the day. It was extremely reasonable. It cost about $16 US dollars to take both Dave and I sight seeing for an entire day. This includes transportation in a car with a guide. We saw the largest mosque in India as well as a bunch of other Delhi sights. We walked around Old Delhi which is almost undescribable. It is packed with people, vendors, stalls, people making anything from nails to paper to we have no idea what else. Dave and I are constantly being stared at and sometimes glared at and sometimes laughed at. Yesterday we had about 5 people want their pictures taken with us. People here I guess are completely entrigued by Westerners.

We started a tour of the Rajasthan area of India and are now in Ranhampor where the famous tigers are at. We spent two and half days in Agra and went to the Taj Mahal twice. The Taj Mahal itself is an amazing sight to see and it is no wonder why so many people want to see it and why it is considered one of the seven wonders of the world. We saw it both at sunset one day and then went back today to see it at sunrise. Dave drew an amazing picture of it also. Seeing something like the Taj is surreal. We kept saying to ourselves - can you believe it we are actually looking at the Taj Mahal! Amazing. Now onto the not in the guide books part... the citry of Agra where the Taj Mahal is located, is not a pretty place. Its filthy, run down, and smelly. (But not as smelly as Dave had imagined it would be.) The power goes off constantly and there is so much smog in the air that the views of the Taj Mahal are somewhat foggy at points. That does not detract people from visiting though. The first time we went it was for sunset and the place was packed. To get to the Taj Mahal you are dropped off about 500 meters from the actual spot due to an emissions ban surrounding it in order to help with pollution - I don't think it is helping much though. So, once we were dropped off by our driver we were immediately hounded by cycle rickshaw drivers. When I say hounded I mean hounded. We could say "No" a million times and they would keep on persisting. The touts selling stuff are the same way as well as people begging. A little boy begged for a solid 15 minutes at another monument we were at. The begging is sad and constant. We are targets because we look like "rich" foreigners so the little kids and poor come up to you and ask for money pretty constantly. India has no welfare system in place so the poverty here is rampant and extreme. I don't want to ruin anyone's day so I won't describe some of the examples of extreme poverty we have seen in our very short time here. The worst city from what I have read is Mumbai (Bombay) which ironically is also the richest city in India. It is where they make all those Bollywood films and is refered to as Bollywood. We go there for a day and half next week before heading off to Goa so that should be an experience.

You also have to tip constantly in India and people constantly want rupees (India money) for watching your shoes at a mosque to taking a picture of their donkey. India is full of extremes and we don't want to make this seem too negative since we have met some great people, seen some absolutely amazing temples, mosques, monuments, on and on. It is amazing how old this stuff is and that it is all elaborately carved from stone and marble by hand.

That's all for now, until we can get to another computer. Which who knows when that will be. Just a reminder to anyone that doesn't know, you can subscribe to our blog by clicking the subscribe link at the upper right of the screen. This way you will get an email everytime we add a new entry.

Lynette and Dave

lschimpf@gmail.com
dbuck242@yahoo.com

Posted by schuckley 02:53 Comments (2)

Malaysia

Dave here. Wow, we are in Malaysia! I can't believe it. We have done and seen so much in the past several days. I don't know where to begin. Well first of all I'll say that Pringles Potato Chips just don't taste the same here as they do in America. They are smaller and just don't have that same melt-in-your-mouth salty goodness. I don't know why they just don't call them something else.

Of course we ate the Pringles anyway, picked them up from a 7-11 (yes they have 7-11) because our first dinner experience in Malaysia didn't go so well. First off we couldn't read the menus, and the waiter didn't speak English very well. I had to show him a photo of a beer on my camera to ask if they had any. They didn't. I ordered a chicken dish not really knowing what it was and got one chicken leg on a plate in some red sauce. It was quite tasty yet it didn't fill me up, especially since Lynette and I were sharing. Then we both ordered apple juice thinking that it would be in a bottle. Our guide book suggested not drinking the water or using ice. The apple juice came and without thinking Lynette took a sip and I took a rather healthy chug, it was very delicious homemade juice. Only then did it occur that it had ice in it. The rest of the night I worried that we'd get sick and have diarrhea. Thank goodness we didn't. Later we found that the water here is pretty clean so we have had ice since and eaten vegetables etc. with no problems.

For those curious, here's what the restrooms have to offer here. Haven't figured out yet how to properly use the hose without getting the pants wet.
Malay_toilet1.jpg

Luckily they also have Western style most places. Not sure we will be so lucky when we get to India.
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Our first few days in Malaysia were spent site seeing in the city of Kuala Lumpur. Its amazing to see all the different cultures and religions all combined in the one big city.

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There's large populations of Indians and Chinese in addition to the native Malaysians. So there are countless mosques, Buddhist, and Hindu temples. A few of which we visited. Here are some photos.

This Hindu temple is just on a street corner across from our hotel.
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Here's some others.
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We also took the tour to the viewing bridge of the famous Petrona twin towers in the city. Its a brief free walk along the bridge that connects the two towers. Its always nice to get a view of the city from above. Afterward we went down to the huge mall that is beneath the towers. It's 6 very expansive levels of all the same stores and restaurants you'd find in any American mall and more. We stopped at Chili's for lunch and had some of the best hamburgers ever. Its been a while.

Here's the Sofie Star at the Petrona Towers.
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As we were walking through the mall two young foreign fellas stopped me, maybe in their twenties. They looked to be perhaps of some Asian decent. One of them, who was kind of hip looking and wore rather trendy clothing, could not speak English. The other more ordinary looking guy told me in broken English that his friend was wondering if he could take a photo with me. Not, would I take a photo OF them, but would I be IN the photo WITH him. Of course this sounded very strange to me and my defenses went up. I immediately wondered what scam they were trying to pull and I said "no." But as my guard went down I added "why?" The guy kind of smiled as if he didn't really even know why himself and just said, "My friend here just wants to get a photo with you." I figured, "what the hell and agreed." So he comes over and stands next to me. (I know you are all wondering what's this guy going to pull right?) Now Lynette didn't see any of this go down because she was a few stores back looking at something in a window. She just turns around and sees me standing next to this dude and a guy about to take our photo. As the guy next to me sees Lynette approaching he motions her over too. He must have seen us together earlier and knew we were together. So I said, "Lynette, come over and get in this photo." (Hey if I'm going to be embarrassed somehow I'd rather not do it alone.) So she walks suspiciously over and gets in the shot. We all smile, I of course keep my hands on my wallet and passport pocket, and the guy snaps the shot. They say thank you and walk off. So there's no big catch here, that was it. I thought that was weird enough without any big surprise at the end. I still don't know why the heck they wanted a photo of me. Maybe he just thought it would be cool to have a shot of him with a big white dude for his living room wall or something. Anyway, it provided us with some good laughs for quite a while.

One day we hailed a cab to go to a Buddhist temple we wanted to see. The cab driver could speak absolutely no English. We had a heck of a time trying to figure out how to tell him where we wanted to go. We showed him the guide book with the name of the place and the map, but unfortunately he couldn't READ English either. So what do you do in a situation like that? You end up driving around and getting out somewhere you hadn't intended. He gathered that we were looking for some kind of temple so I guess he just took us to one that he knew. It wasn't the one we'd wanted but it turned out to actually be a great experience. We went into a Temple of Fine Arts and asked a very nice Indian woman where this temple was that we were looking for. She told us that it was about a 10 minute drive away. Then she asked us if we were hungry and wanted to eat there. There was some kind of make shift restaurant along the side of the building. She said it was an Indian style buffet - we could eat as much as we wanted and then just pay whatever we wanted. This sounded like a good deal but very suspicious, (I know we sound like very suspicious people, but you have to be to some extent when you are in such foreign places) and from our vantage point it looked like no one was over there at the tables. If there is no one eating at a place like that you wonder how long the food has been sitting there and if it is okay to eat. But I walked over to get a better look. There were actually several people eating there and they looked like pretty normal local folks. Some of the guys had on a tie like they stopped by for lunch on their work day. So we figured, why not - these are the kind of experiences we are looking for. I asked what the one dish was that looked like chicken. The woman told me that they were totally vegetarian there. It was actually pieces of mango in some kind of gravy. It was really good and ended up being Lynette's favorite. I preferred a really tasty spinach in sauce dish. There were also some bamboo chute looking things in a tomato like sauce. The woman told us to just chew on them to get the flavor that's inside of them and then spit them out. She considered them extremely tasty. I thought they were just okay.

After lunch we went across the street to the Buddhist temple that the cab driver thought we were talking about. We went through the courtyard and into the small temple area, taking off our shoes to enter. After giving a blessing to a woman, the young monk came over to us and asked us where we were from. We ended up having a really nice long conversation with him. He took us over to the neighboring building which had to be unlocked. It was another temple with thousands of little Buddha statues inside. They were displayed on shelves that encircled the room. They were all white and were of varying sizes. Display cases on the walks housed more Buddha statues from a wide range of other countries. The monk talked to us for a while about Buddhism and then afterward asked if we wanted a blessing. We went back to the other temple and sat down on some stools. He handed us a spool of really long yellow string. Lynette held the spool, I held some of the string between my hands, and the monk held the end of the string. Then he began a really long chant in some foreign tongue. When he was finished he tied yellow strings around each of our wrists and sent us on our way. He did not tell us what the strings or the chant meant, but it was a really cool experience.

This is the Buddhist temple
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Here's a shot of the inside and the monk who we spoke with.
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On another night we went to China Town for dinner. We ate at one of the many street-side restaurants where the food was unlike anything we've ever had at Chinese restaurants back home but was really good.
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I liked this guys beard. Hopefully by the end of the year mine will be the same length.
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This guy standing in the middle was staring at us at dinner.
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After dinner we walked through the streets of vendors which seemed to go on forever. It was really crammed and people were hollering at us constantly to come over and check out their various merchandise. Of course they all claim they've got a really good deal for us. After trying on a few different shirts we quickly realized they don't make clothes big enough for us westerners. Even though the extra larges didn't even fit us they would of course tell us that it looked wonderful and perfect on us.

Here's a shot that shows how it felt to walk down the street among all the vendor tents.
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On the last day in Kuala Lumpur we were driven around town by a really nice cab driver that we met the day before. He offered to take us to several local sites before taking us to the airport. The fare was a really good deal so we agreed. First he took us to the Batu Caves which we were really anxious to see. Below is a photo. You go up this really long staircase to enter these caves that were discovered about 100 years ago. Since then all these Hindu shrines and statues have been built inside the cave. Its also known for all the monkeys that live inside of it. It was awesome.

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We had a rather disturbing surprise when we arrived in Kuala Lumpur. When we got to the airport we tried to get some money out of an ATM and our cards didn't work. Luckily we had brought some American cash for just such an occasion and were able to exchange it to the local currency. We tried again at a different ATM and even though we should have been able to get money out we were not. Lynette contacted our bank through email and found that our ATM cards had been turned off because they had detected unusual activity. We assumed that this was because they saw it being used in a variety of different countries, which bothered us because we had notified them prior to leaving that we would be out of the country for a year and even gave them a list of most of the countries we would be visiting. The bank emailed us with a phone number to contact them because they needed to speak with us verbally for verification before they would turn the cards back on. They wouldn't just do it via email. However, with the country codes etc. the number they gave us was not working. We also had to deal with the issue of the time difference and figure out when their office would be open. But we didn't know where their office was located so that took some time. Finally after two days of emailing we were able to get a hold of them by phone and clear up the situation. It turned out that it was due to some glitches with the actual ATM machines that caused the problem. We are hoping it won't happen again but if it does at least we have gone through the process once and it will hopefully not cause as much dismay.

Two days ago we flew to the Malaysian island of Langkawi off the North West coast of the country. It is more of a resort island and way more laid back than the city where the traffic is crazy and people on mopeds are nearly running you over. We've been here one night and are loving it. The pool is huge and the water is warm. The beautiful beach with visible islands just offshore is right out back. The accommodations are really nice and the room is rather large compared to what we've had previously. I went for a jet ski ride yesterday and today we are getting massages at the spa. Really rough here! :-) It will be sad to leave the day after tomorrow when we head back to Kuala Lumpur for our flight to India.

Lynette's foot is healing well. We have a plethora of other minor injuries that we've incurred along the way that we are dealing with day to day. Rashes, cuts and scratches on feet and knees, bug bites, pealing skin from sunburn, back ache, etc. But we are doing fine.

I've taken tons of photos. I wish I could post them all. I copy the ones I like from my camera to the computer and then when I look at how many I have to upload I end up having to delete a few because it would take too long. But maybe I'll be able to get back online soon to add more.

Posted by schuckley 02:05 Comments (4)

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