A Travellerspoint blog

Pink people in the pink City

Speed sight-seeing by autorickshaw

overcast 32 °C

I knew we'd arrived in Jaipur from the weight of dust on my eyelids. Thus ended fifteen hours on the sleeper bus from Amritsar: the trains were all full. When I say sleeper I mean keep your 'reclining' seats: this was a cozy, flat double bed for Kot i Pies, where one might ordinarily put a luggage rack. Human cargo we were, tumbling left and right, up and down, back and forth, all at once, all the way in a compartment just too short to stretch your legs. It's the only way to travel!

Scrambling off that dastardly tin can at 11am we grabbed aloo parantha and set off in the direction of Lonely Planet's budget hotel recommendation, spurning the rickshaw drivers that lined our path. Going there has made our day, not because of the hotel - it was too expensive at £8/night - but because outside we met 'Rajik'.

"Not many autorockshaw drivers have a website eh?", he chuckled, I suspect correctly, as he drove us home. In the past few hours he's taken us to Jawa Nahal, which is quite literally astronomical (it's a set of ginormous sculpted sundials), to the Hannuman temple, the Windy Palace, the Water Palace, the tie-dye textile factory and the silversmith.

I say 'home' but we just said good night to Rajik sat in a local bar and it's brilliant. Dark, very dark, the air thick with cigarette smoke, one small TV. It could be a British pub from the 70's if it wasn't for the (nervous) waiter service and free pappadums.

Men sit huddled in indistinguishable shadows, slurring their words. And they are all men - no doubt hiding from their wives. The slogan of the whisky here: 'Let the world wait' - and we've seen recently many doing exactly that, clearly for decades at a time if the looks their scowling wives are anything to go by.

Several have sat themselves down next to us over the past 10 minutes, eager to know 'Which countree?' and 'You like India?'

Well I was born in the UK, though I think nation-states are past their sell-by date, since you ask. And India? What can I say. Here with a beer, looking out over the sprawling Pink City - and it is mostly pink: I've checked - dusty, concrete and poverty-stricken it may be - yeah it'll do. It'll do.

A light rain; flashes of blue lightning fork brilliantly through the sky as we look out to the 'Hotel Om' revolving tower. Magical.

Posted by Pharkie 14:46 Archived in India Tagged india jaipur Comments (0)

City of Gold(en temple): Amritsar

Free food, free bed and free chai in the famous Sikh city, but the price? Freedom.

sunny 31 °C

And so to Amritsar for the Golden Temple. We hitchhiked here from Dharamshala. That took 13 hours with the final 110km leg in the biggest truck yet, a proper interstate one with two drivers. Most might wait for the Golden Temple for the Sikh free-dinner experience, but we stopped with our hosts at a a road-side temple for a taster.

Arriving late, the 'foreigner' beds at the temple were taken, so we checked in at a guest house. But we returned in the morning and secured two beds in a three-bed room: great.

It's nice here at Guru Ram Das Niwas. Except the toilets, while European style, have windows in the doors - which some might say negates the advantage of a door?

Thanks to Sikh hospitality you get free bananas to take to your free bed with your free lockers. When you get up you refill with free filter water, leave your shoes, and that's free, before being given a free headscarf to go eat free thali before nipping downstairs for hot tea, for free. It's not all free though. 300ml Coca-cola is 5 rupees (£0.07).

But no sitting with your legs out, no laying down around the pool, no photos in the temple. They'll feed you and take care of you completely, so long as you play by their rules. One Sikh was particularly dismayed that I was unmarried with no children. 

So I'll buy my own thali, thanks all the same.

Posted by Pharkie 00:45 Archived in India Tagged india amritsar Comments (0)

Why India is like Morrowind

This country has remarkable similarities to the epic computer game of 2002

sunny 30 °C

In India it's easy to imagine the high elves live in the mountains, the wood elves in the steep, lower, sunlit pine forests, the dwarves staunchly guarding the rocky passes. When you leave the road it's quiet. It could be another epoch, not just one in our own timeline but perhaps another universe entirely.

You scramble across streams and rivers, pull yourself up trees for the view, see animals so unknown they could have been generated moments earlier. They obey the basic rules. A bit like an ant, bigger, hinged wings. You can see why it works but the combination is new.

If not Middle Earth then certainly the isle of Vvardenfell. Ald'ruhn is Chandigarh, well ordered, built of stone, good travel connections. Vivec is Delhi, busy, strongly cultured, full of markets. Balmora channels Shimla, the hilltop Summer capital. The Tribune here is not Almalexia, Sotha Sil, and Vivec but Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Simple temples dot the landscape, often hidden at the end of long uphill paths. A baba sits patiently inside, same place every day. Blessings are available for a small donation. Waterfalls cascade in the distance. Horses wander by. You can levitate if you like: pay a mage £7 for a short-effect 'paraglide' scroll.

Bartering skill really matters; you get better with practise. You can only buy what you can carry, otherwise you must leave valuable items strewn on the landscape or in guest rooms.

Being from the 'white' race means sometimes celebrity, sometimes suspicion, often being stopped in the street by strangers. You can ask for directions but whether you're told the right thing is a roll of the dice.

You can be taught new skills. There's one master trainer per town: in Rishikesh it's Yoga (not just acrobatic, it's meditative use in channeling energy). Here in Macleod Ganj, you can pick up low levels of the local language, or how to cook chocolate Momos.

Road signs are written in strange runes. Pilgrimages are popular. Taverns often have cheap rooms available at the back. A simple room, just a bed, blanket, maybe a small table. You can pick the lock or smash it off if you choose. The local brew can be deadly: yesterday 12 people died in a rural village here.

You must be wary of the water and insect-borne diseases. Competing cures are available should you become infected, some magical some potions. Malaria, Dengue fever replacing Ataxia and Swamp fever. The water reflections are almost life-like.

The politics are fiercely contended. The peoples of Pakistan, India, China, Tibet have complex relationships, history, allegiances and myths. It is mostly peaceful but when you talk to folk they will tell you of struggles that started before their lifetime and will continue long after, perhaps seeking your support in some way.

You make your own story as you happen upon characters. You're vaguely aware of a broader narrative but so far I haven't delved too deeply into it. All in good time.

Posted by Pharkie 19:00 Archived in India Tagged india morrowind Comments (1)

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