A Travellerspoint blog

A bit more from the Himalayas

sunny 40 °C

Hey dudes!

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I've managed to upload some more photos from the Himalayas for you guys. Here are some of our favourites...

These photos are from a place called the Norbulinka institute in Dharamshala, close to the Tibetan Border. It's a charity that helps Tibetans and it specialises in crafts and hand made artefacts. Below you'll see some of the processes involved in making a huge Buddha statue...

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Lovely flowers and ting....

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These photos were taken about 15 minutes walk from our cottage in Palampur. I was certainly not expecting anything like this when the owner casually said "there's a stream over there somewhere...."

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I found this river snake lurking...

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And a lizard doing a funky dance...

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Walking back up I was lucky to get the opportunity to take some amazing photos...

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Some more amazing vistas...

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While we were there we visted Mcleod Ganj, home of the Dalai Lama. It's a really funky little town, full of hippies and some great markets. It did hit home how sad the Tibetan story is when you see photos stuck to trees of political prisoners taken recently by the chinese communist government...

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Remember these from the Golden Child!!!! I-I-I-I-I-I want the knife.....

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The sacred cross dagger of Ajantii (another Golden Child reference mainly for the benefit of Jasen, Andy and Pete!)

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And this one solely for the benefit of Jasen... GUTTED!!!!

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Tibetan kids are SO CUTE...

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More photos from Mcleod Ganj and Tibetan Monasterys....

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These are some of the photos we missed off from the last blog update, some nice views, temples, pottery pics...
You'll notice one photo of what looks like hundreds of flags hanging in the forest. These are everywhere as you climb the mountain pass up to Sherabling Monastery, there are thousands and thousands of them. Each flag is filled with bhuddist mantras that the tibetans believed are carried off into the wind...

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This is Karan's 1926 Model T Ford, he owns the cottages we stayed at in the himalayas...

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On the way from Amritsar (Punjab) to Himachal Pradesh we smelled something funny, not unlike a student common room. Turns out weed grows EVERYWHERE in this region...

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And here's the last of them....

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See you later loyal blog followers, Neet will hopefully be updating soon with some pics of Jaipur and other parts of Rajasthan :)

Posted by Gavness 08:17 Archived in India Tagged events Comments (1)

Punjab to Himachal Pradesh

A country of contrasts

sunny 35 °C

The reality of our trip hit me when we left our beloved B & B in Delhi to catch the train to Amritsar. Its nearly six hours on the train - the Shatbadi Express. Now the express trains that I have encountered are either the Gatwick or Heathrow express and I am glad Gav is on the ball when we get to the station as I am having problems rationalising "express" with what rolls into the platform. Nonetheless we are reliably informed that it is the Shatbadi Express and so we board. I try and sleep through the 6 hours and Gav makes friend's with a 16 year old - Tanmay who is also en route to the Golden Temple in Amritsar for some luck on his Board exams...Good luck Tanmay!!! Gav and Tanmay talk about everything from politics to music to religion, he is very well informed and as well as proposing an import-export business invites Gavin to see more of Delhi. We've made another friend and look forward to meeting up with Tanmay when we return to Delhi.

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We arrive in Amritsar in the afternoon and our first impression is shock at the poverty. We are quickly whisked off to our guesthouse - Mrs Bhandhari's Guesthouse where we spend the rest of the afternoon chilling in the beautiful grounds. The guesthouse was first opened by Mrs Bhandhari Snr back in the day and has been taken over by Mrs Bhandhari Jnr since her mother passed away in 2007 at the ripe old age of 102!!!

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We are up very early the next day for our visit to the Golden Temple. Our ride is powered by a lawn mower engine and is possibly the ricketiest rickshaw in Punjab if not the whole of India driven by Krishan and his friend. The road to the temple is via the back streets and again we are shocked by what we see. Before we have time to process this we make our way to the temple entrance and are immediately awestruck as we catch the first sight of the magnificant Golden Temple. Its beauty truly takes your breathe away and in the early morning light is looks like a fire in the middle of the lake.

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As we walk round the atmosphere in the temple is peaceful almost hypnotic with the sounds of the tablas, harmonium and soft bhagans despite the activity - cleaning (the temple is immaculate), people (mostly men) bathing in the lake that surrounds the temple, cooking and so on. Again the thoughts about India that don't quite make sense come to the fore as I see the equality of all men on this side of the temple and the inequality on the other side.

Krishan awaits us with his trusty(?) ride back to the guesthouse and as we make our way back I am shocked when I see a man, now how can I put this...uhmmm..."self loving" may be the most appropriate term. Now this is another thing, it really is not uncommon for men to play "shuffle ball" as you chat about the price of something or another. Where is one supposed to look?

Anyway, after breakfast we spot Mrs Bhandhari and her friend Greda and go over for a chat. One gets the feeling of a great sense of history at the guesthouse and the chats with Mrs Bhadhari Jnr do not disappoint. She is a jolly lady who brings India to life with her many stories.

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In the afternoon we go to the Wagha Border Ceremony, the closing of the India-Pakistan border has turned into a bit of an event with many hundreds of people attending every day. There is a carnival atmosphere with the lots of loud music, ladies dancing bhangra as well as flag running. The two sides (India-Pakistan) try and out-do each other in a peacock display with the above as well as the soldiers seeing who can hold their breathe for the longest, the elaborate marching as well as twirling of moustaches!!!! It is crazy weird but we have a great time and I think both Gav and I feel slightly emotional as we plead allegiance to the Indian side....Mahtha ki!! Zindabad!

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The next day is an early morning drive from Punjab to Himachal Pradesh, both of us are feeling a little under the weather...Delhi belly has arrived as a result of a Paneer Pizza from Dominos (you gotta try!!) the night before. Sunglasses on, water bottles at the ready and off we go for a ride that turns out to be hellish beyond belief. Now the best way to describe the roads would be to say you know how Hinduism is about respect for your fellow man? Well, that doesn't apply to the roads. There are no speed limits, it is not uncommon for a riskshaw to overtake a bus at the same as as a car overtaking a rickshaw and if you just look in front of you, exactly the same is happening on the other side. Our driver was particularly bad and we had near misses more than a dozen times.

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Although a little flustered, we arrived to our cottage in a tea plantation on the Himalayas. The setting is tranquil beyond words, the only hooting is from the birds and other wild life around us. We settled in for the evening full of anticipation for the exploration of this region over the next few days....

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(OK Gav is taking over now as my fingers hurt!)

We are up and ready to go....first stop is Sobha Singh's gallery which is a tiny room with some beautiful oil paintings of various indian icons, Ghandi etc. The work is truly inspiring and its nice to think that there have been unknown artists like him working in india for years. Next stop is the Andretta pottery shop, where they also hold pottery lessons for local children. Arun, our bedi smoking host lets us have a go and we create some decent attempts at pottery. Seeing that its our first try, I think we did quite well. Washing our hands is a bit of a conundrum as there doesn't seem to be a sink anywhere, but Arun soon clears that up, pointing out that we have to go down the hill to a stream! It's a really lovely little pool of crystal clear water with dragon flies buzzing around. Amazing!

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Next we headed off to a hindu Temple, very old and simple but so beautiful. Loads of monkeys dotted about that pretty much kept themselves to themselves.

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We then head off to the sherbaling monastery where the monks in training learn their trade. It's beautiful and serene, loads of old women potter about chanting mantras and the monk's canteen serves the best Momos this side of Tibet! (more photos to follow, they're on the other camera!)

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On the drive back we spot a clearing that is just calling out to us. The sun is high in the sky just in front of us, the Himalayas to our right and we decide to sit and watch the sun go down over Himachal Pradesh. It is a moment we will always remember, the image is undescribable and we truly feel blessed to be able to have seen this with our own eyes...

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When we return to the cottage we meet Alan and his friend Subadrha. Alan is a proffessor of asian studies at coventry university and Subadrha lives in Kolkatta. Alan is a fountain of knowledge about India and we talk late into the night. The conversation gets onto Mauritius and he is able to shed some light on my ancestry. He says that most indians came over as indentured labour after the indian poppy crop failed. The british cultivated poppies in India for export of opium to China and indians were forced to farm it. After the crops failed poverty struck the regions of Varanasi to Kolkatta and Indians were shipped off to Mauritius to tend the Sugar Cane fields, Britains newest fad export to London. Indians from Tamil Nadu were brought over as Clerks or Book-keepers as they tended to be more educated and excelled at mathematics. Alan recommends a book called Sea of Poppies by Amitav Gosht, I am determined to find it tomorrow....

The next morning we head to Mcleodganj through Dharmshala, the residence of the Dalai Lama and general hippie fest! The town is crazy, hippie clothing, hippie food, hippies everywhere! We do some shopping (I find Sea of Poppies and Neeta gets some self teaching Hindi books as well as some weird indian comics) then head to the complex which houses the temple and the residence of the Dalai Lama. He's not there but the temple alone is worth it. Three walls are covered entirely with amazing murals depicting the transformation of Bhudda and the wheel of time. We cant imagine how long it must have taken to paint it, but it must have been forever!

We head home after McLeod for a well needed rest.

Today we have an easy day hanging out in Palumpur organising onward travel to Rajasthan....

We'll update again after Rajasthan and keep checking the blog as we might add more photos from Hmachal Pradesh if we get the chance. BYE BYE :)

Posted by Gavness 02:56 Archived in India Tagged events Comments (0)

We have arrived!!!!!

First few days in Delhi...

sunny 35 °C

OK so first off, sorry for the delay in updating the blog but I haven't been able to get online much since we arrived. I was all set to press "send" this morning after writing a lovely long piece about our first few days when a power cut struck and took my hard work with it! Well, such is life, so I'll start again and hopefully I'll get it done before the power cuts off :)

So what can I say about India? LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!!!!!!!! I can speak for Neeta on this one when I say that this country is amazing beyond all expectations. The roads are crazy, the people are fantastic, the city is alive, pumping relentlessly 24 hours a day. We arrived at 12.30am and were welcomed by Pervez who runs the homestay with his lovely wife Lubhna. All I can say about our accommodation is that if you ever come to Delhi, it is the ONLY place to stay. It is truly lovely, Pervez and Lubhna are the perfect hosts, and have helped us out so much. Without them, our brief stay in Delhi would not have been so special (and Lubhnas food is amazing!)

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Our first day out into the wild of delhi took us onto the streets in the famous (or infamous) auto-rickshaws. These are basically modified motorcycles that zip in and out of the crazy traffic all over delhi. There is no real system of order from what I can see, you simply find a space and fill it with a vehicle, praying that you dont crash or that your rickety old auto rickshaw doesn't collapse before you get there. To be fair though, as mad as it may seem to us I felt pretty safe on the road, these guys must have the reflexes of formula one drivers!

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We arrive at Humayan's tomb, a site unknown to me and relatively unassuming when you first get it but we soon discover that it houses one of the most amazing peices of 16th Century Mughal architecture this side of the Taj Mahal. The building is constructed entirely of local red sandstone and white marble and is stunning. I was taken back by how similar it is to the Taj and I discover that the Shah based his design on this building.

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We get a brilliant surprise though as we get closer to the tomb itself. At first I dont pay attention to the birds hovering above us, but as we get up to the top floors of the building we discover that these are falcons, huge wingspans of 4 to 5 feet, gliding on the updrafts of hot air that rise from the grounds. It is a truly magical sight and was not at all what I expected to see on our first day in delhi.

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Tuesday arrives and the jet lag hits me like a brick. Neeta wakes up at a reasonable hour but I'm still in bed at 1pm. That's not to say that our day was uneventful, far from it... We head off to Delhi Railway Station to get our tickets to amritsar. Delhi station is an absolute nutter-fest. Imagine delhi as a ball of crazy if you will. The station is that ball's nucleus, emitting lunacy from its epicenter, infecting everything in its path!Every step of the way we are confronted by con-men trying to steer us away from the tourist bureau and to their dodgy agencies where they plan to rip you off. We almost fall for one, he is well dressed and stands beside the metal detector, he looks and sounds very official, he produces ID, he is very helpful and tells us that the tourist office is closed because of building works. My Spidey sense tells me not to fall for it and we head past the guard upstairs to find... lo-and-behold, the tourist office! Close shave that one. After we get our tickets we hit Janpath Market for some shopping and heavy haggling. I get a very respectable fake casio G-Shock watch for 200Rs (about 3 quid) and we pick up our sim cards and a mobile phone at the same time.

The people in India I find to be so warm and friendly, unlike almost no other place I've seen before. There is a real honesty and warmth about them. Perfect strangers ask me to take photos of them, just because, well... I guess it's nice to have your photo taken once in a while :)

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Today, Wednesday, we get up early and arrange a driver for the day so we can see as much of Delhi as possible before we head off to Amritsar tomorrow. Our driver Jompiram is a nice bloke and Neeta exhausts much of her Hindi capabilities on him. She's always complaining that her hindi is crap but everyone seems to understand her. She can certainly hold her own over here which is such a bonus for me as I stare dumbly at the vendors, smiling and nodding...

We head to Jama Masjid first, a beautiful mosque in Old Delhi where the floors are so hot from the sun you could fry an egg on them. Again we marvel at the architecture but are more astounded by these lovely people, poor in material wealth but so rich in spirit. These guys have got soul. We love it here for them more than anything else.

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After the mosque we go to the Red Fort, the former home of the Shah himself. The only way to describe it is WOW! It is a military looking structure from the front but once inside the Shah's love of white marble shows itself, his entire palace is made of it and the carving detail boggles the mind. The main court where he used to entertain his guests is cordoned off, but we slipped the guard 100Rs and he let me in to take some pictures of the amazing marble work...

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Next we head off to the Ghandi Memorial site, the place where he spent the last 144 days of his life. This was such a moving place for us, personally, as we both have a lot of love for the man and his teachings. The memorial traces Ghandi's last footsteps up to the actual place he was shot. It has an amazing presence about the place and I feel a real wave of sadness hit me when I visit the shrine. The museum had some amazing modern art, all ghandi related, and loads of information about his life. Neeta and I were both just stunned at how relevant his teachings were in the 1940's to the problems we face today, and how his vision for a free, democratic and fair India was never fully realised. There's still time though... Rest in Peace Ghandiji...

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Tomorrow we're off to Amritsar and brave the trains of India, wish us luck :)

Posted by Gavness 11:29 Archived in India Tagged events Comments (1)

6 days to go...

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Only 6 days before we leave for Delhi! The excitement and terror is building inside me but I am looking forward to this more than anything else I've ever done. Tons of stuff still to do but we are getting there slowly but surely.

Thanks to all of you for coming to our leaving drinks on Saturday night. It was a great crack and a heavy one (head still hurting). We'll do it again when we get back :)

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Keep following the blog, I can guarantee you its going to get a lot more interesting...

Gav

Posted by Gavness 14:59 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Nearly there...

OK! So it is finally happening!!! After two years of talking and since we set up this blog we are well on our way to making plans.

We decided two weeks ago (31st Jan to be precise) and since then our house has been a flurry of activity. The office is fast becoming the Travel HQ - we've got a (very large) map of the world, lists upon lists of what is done/still to do on the walls and forms for visas/passports/drivers licence making a mess on the desk and I LOVE IT!!!

I'm saving all the details for after we've booked the tickets - also because I don't want to jinx anything. But in a nutshell I feel like I am constantly grinning like a Cheshire cat :)

Thanks Gavvy you are the best!

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Posted by Gavness 02:46 Comments (0)

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