Tuesday, February 18, 2014
India Pt 1
2/11/14 Ahmedabad (pronounced A-Hem-me-Da-Ba-D by the tour guide)
Today was the most interesting day since I arrived in country. Visited a rather dilapidated museum designed by renown architect Le Corbusier, the Sanskar Kendra. I don't believe the building itself was completed, as it looks half built. It made for interesting exploration, as I made my way around the insides of the building. It is actually and active museum, though some of the exhibits are in terrible condition. I even made my way up to the roof, something I find unlikely to happen in a museum in any Western country. Fun.
Our next stop was the Adalaj Stepwell, which I thought was the single most fascinating structure I've ever step foot in. A 5 story underground structure used to collect rain during seasonal monsoons, it featured intricate carvings and pillars and all kinds of fascinating cultural historical references. I had enormous fun within it, but I could have done without the bats. (I'm not scared of bats themselves, but I am wary of rabies.)
Last stop was a long one. A walk through the local market, stopping for pictures at a pair of mosques. I got an up close view of the life of the average Indian. It was enjoyable but for the beggar children. Just because you're cute doesn't mean I won't smack you if you grab me.
2/10/14 New Delhi Airport
I am about to board a flight to Ahmedabad. The flight is slightly delayed, but this won't be a repeat of my Brisbane debacle. I visited two sights today, and came to a surprising conclusion. Agra Fort is quite old, built in the later 1500's. It only took eight years to build, and considering it's size and complexity, I found that more than a little surprising. (I was comparing it to European cathedrals, which are relatively much smaller and equally complex structures, but somehow take scores if not hundreds of years to complete...how Indian efficiency has fallen.) Constructed mostly of red sandstone, within its walls lie many palaces and structures. There is lots of history in this place. Interestingly, one ruler had a harem of 5000 women(maids included) living in underground “apartments” beneath the fort. Sounds like my kind of man.
Second stop of the day was the Taj Mahal, the Wonder. Ironically, it's fascinating and wondrous from a distance, but really not that interesting up close, and even more boring inside. It's basically just a giant tombstone. I was rather disappointed.
Boarding announcements. I hope to make it to a hotel at a decent hour tonight.
2/9/14 Highway between Jaipur and Agra
India is a country with a wide variety of car horns. About the only one I have yet to hear is “La Cucaracha,” and that's only because Mexicans don't immigrate to countries that are worse than Mexico. The same can be said for the Chinese and China. Which also answers the question of why there doesn't seem to be any restaurants of any other kind of cuisine other than Indian cuisine in India. But back to the topic of horns.
In India, you need three things to drive. First, you need a loud, working horn. Second, you need good breaks for sudden stops. Third, you need luck. It is the standard policy of drivers to turn a three lane street into a six lane-er. It is also required that you honk your horn constantly while passing other cars or mobile or non-mobile entities on the road. This is explained when one realizes that many do not have mirrors of any sort. The result is a constant cacophony of horns, each trying to be louder than the other.
It is late evening now, and I'm writing this on the bus to Agra. Normally, I would not do such a thing, but I make an exception because this bus has not moved in some time. I expect somewhere far ahead of us, something has decided to break down and could not be moved out of this two/four lane highway. My neighbor has joked that perhaps a cow decided to take a nap in the road, but I find this doubtful. I've already seen several examples of cow traffic, and those at least move. So now I take the opportunity to write.
This morning, we visited the City Palace for some daylight pictures. I took the opportunity to purchase a half dozen scarves for $15 dollars, fulfilling my gift obligations. We then visited the Amber Palace in the hills over Jaipur. As part of the tour package, we rode elephants up said hills. I would not recommend such for people with back issues. It is not comfortable at all, and I commend those archers in ancient times for being able to ride these things to war. Now moving, will continue.
Traffic was caused by an intersection with no traffic lights or traffic police. Once one side had a dominating flow, it would not relinquish it, causing an hour's delay. Only the arrival of armed military of some kind allowed us some relief. I suspect there was some kind of military officer stuck behind us, who was unhappy about being stuck behind us.
Anyhow, Amber Palace was something of a huge maze, but worth a look see, despite all the peddlers hawking their wares. After finishing up in Jaipur, we set of on our 7 hour journey to Agra, where nothing much happened.
Dinner, a bit of online shopping, then bed.
This country has too many people, and the vast majority of them are poor as shit. The contrast between the economic classes is extremely stark, considering residential neighborhoods do not seem to be segregated; the rich build their shiny apartment buildings on lots right next to shanty towns.
I woke up to a passable breakfast at the Raddisson, after which I jumped on the bus for a six hour journey to Jaipur. This first leg of the Golden Triangle of India was made on the Freeway. And by Freeway, I don't mean a Highway or Expressway that's toll free. No, there are still tolls, but it's called Freeway because anyone can use it. This includes buses, cars, and motorbikes. This also includes rickshaws, scooters, bicycles, horses, camels, sheep, and cows. And pedestrians. We had plenty of opportunity to take in the scenery, or rather, the poor as shit masses of humanity on the wayside.
I will describe it simply: It looks like they fought a war, and didn't bother to rebuild.
When we reached Jaipur, I explored the “Pink City,” including the palace “Hawa Mahal” and what I think was the downtown area on foot. Much better than we saw on the bus ride over, as they had something approximating sidewalks here, and most buildings were in passable condition, possibly due to their historical and architectural value. I've discovered that goods are cheap here. A fine scarf would cost some three dollars here, and that's without bargaining. I didn't really have the heart to bargain for a dollar.
Returned to our hotel after sundown for a dinner that looks suspiciously like what I had for lunch, along with what turned out to be a rather poor excuse for beer. (Kingfisher, may you never pass through these lips again.)
2/7/14 New Delhi
A day of long flights. Woke up this morning with a head cold. I had forgotten to bring the Advil and ended up buying acetaminophen during my layover in Hong Kong. I will say that said layover did not endear me to the Cantonese language at all. Even hearing from the mouths of rather attractive flight attendants and retail staff did not help any. Such a harsh sounding language.
My first impression from my two hours in India is that Indians take their sweet time with everything. Efficiency is not something they are concerned with, from what I can tell. Luggage and people must go through screening when entering hotels, due to terrorism concerns.
I learned a new acronym from the tour guide: INDIA: I'll Never Do It Again. Lets hope it doesn't turn out to be accurate.
I leave for India in two day. Taiwan has been uneventful, but that was to be expected. We(my cousins and I) have watched the new Tom Clancy film(which, disappointingly, had nothing to do with the old films except for character name) and the Robocop reboot. Both were disappointing. Rain has made working out difficult. I will instead go pick up a kettlebell today. (Ended up lugging a 24kg kettlebell through the metro system back home. That was itself a workout. I need to weigh the thing though, it doesn't seem to be as heavy as it states it is.)
My first Chinese New Year in Asia was a peaceful war zone. Firecrackers and fireworks bursting all through the night echo like small arms and artillery fire in my dreams for three nights running.
As for my own activities, I went to many different shrines, had two different dinners, and was bored the rest of the time. It was pretty much as I expected it to be.
Went to a Monet exhibition at a museum. They say that towards the end, the man had terrible cataracts, and let me tell you: it showed. Going to start working out at the little exercise yard behind the house.