Magnificent Ellora

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I know what you may be thinking… Is this right? They are posting pictures of India now but… are they still there?

Well, the truth is that we had to cut our trip short and fly back to Austria at the beginning of April, but that is another story that we will tell later and anyway, there are many places we saw and have not mentioned yet, so why not start with one of the most amazing places we have seen in India?

I have been talking to some friends and they all think we suffered sooo much in this country. Always mentioning the lack of hygiene and the shocking circumstances we had to endure in our trip… well. let me tell you that it was definitely not that way. We have fully enjoyed our trip and seen some incredible places and just as an example, here are some images of the Ellora Caves.

This place is close to Aurangabad and it is just a pearl of architecture and history. I won’t tell you much but have a look at the pictures and remember one thing: every wall, column or statue that you see there is just part of 1 SINGLE PIECE. Yes, this place was not built, it was carved in the stones of a cliff!!! There are in total 34 caves that were dig (some of them simultaneously) during the 6th to 11th century by monks from 3 different religions (Jain, Buddhist and Hindu).

Big hugs and enjoy the pics!

Varanasi

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Tourists (like us) enjoying the early morning lights and the views of the ghats from the river

It’s hard to find the words to describe the incongruent beauty of this place.

The first word that comes to our mind when thinking of Varanasi is FILTH, and it is true. But Varanasi is also ancient history (3000 years?), it is life and it is death (actually, a lot of this). It is misery and it is joy. It is cows and dogs, rats and goats, monkeys and humans. It is Ganges at its holiest and its utterly disgusting. It is the light of the sun at dawn and the warmth of the Aarti candles at dusk. It is the lie of the tourism and the truth of pure belief. The madness and frenzy of life and the patience and calmness of existance. It is the kites flying higher an higher towards the clouds in the afternoon. It is all this and more… and filth.

You find shit all over the place. Cow shit, dog shit, goat shit… human shit? I don’t know, this one is harder to differenciate… Fresh, dry, stinky, sticky, there is so much it has grown like an organic skin, a protection to the stonefloor and, like any skin, it regenarates regularly, if you know what I mean! It can be frustrating as you walk trying to avoid them but it is defenitely not the worst. Human rubbish is just disgusting. Loads of plastic bags, bottles, packages, together with waste food, paper and whatever one can imagine accumulates on the streets for “living rubbish bins” (that’s dogs, rats and cows) to deal with them. More often will you see trolleys to collect animal shit that rubbish, but that’s normal, as it can be sold afterwards and used to heat, to fertilise, etc. However this is nothing new and by now we are kind of used to.

So, as I said, the arrival was a bit overwhelming (we even took out the knife to feel safer). The train took 3 hours more than expected (total success for a 28-hours expected journey)  and we got our first surprise. The narrow allies are so small, it is impossible for rickshaws or taxis to get to the old town. Yuhuuu…??… Maybe, but the day we arrived we were not so happy about it. Having to wander in this town at 22h30 not knowing where you have to go can be claustrophobic.

The dimmed lights bring the walls even closer; the cables hang from everywhere; groups of dancing people parade their deads on their way to the ghats (the stairs at the riverside) for their cremation; the people you come across stare at you with empty expressions (why are they looking then!?)  and the shop porters push their bicycles full of merchandise. I really don’t know how they turn the corners with such huge trolleys but often you must jump into a shop or a house to allow enough space to pass… because YOU are blocking the way… All of this and of course the shit.

By the time we reached the hotel, the reservation was cancelled. But the guide from the hotel Alka, gently took us to another branch called Treeth hotel. Following him through the little roads was even scarier and we thought someone would jump on us at any minute. But like everytime before, we got there and nothing happened. We got a “survival” room for the night (a room with artificial light and small windows that allowed only the smoke of cigarettes in) at an overpriced 650 IRP. It’s too late to discuss, lets go to sleep and see tomorrow… And eventually we stayed there! The day after we changed to a better, wider and cleaner room on 3rd floor with views to an inner working patio for 50 IRP more. The options at Alka (it is a very popular destination, right next to the river, with big patio, restaurant with views and many rooms, but I think it is getting a bit pricy) could not compare and the service here was great!

With accommodation sorted, we could concentrate in enjoying the city, the many veggie-friendly places, the laidback atmosphere and the powerful energy of the place. We met Alba, our friend from the TTC course, who had finally met her boyfriend Zac and were on their way to Nepal. With them we tried some of the recommended cafes and restaurants of Kashi (new way of calling Varanasi) like the Brown Bread Bakery (breakfast) and Fuji or The Dolphin (dinner). All with very nice location but quite expensive for what you get (mainly The Dolphin), which shows the damaging effect of guidebooks for customers. Most of the places we visited were listed in Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide and while we normally find their advise quite helpful, the prices were often (but not always, ok?) higher than quoted in the books.

Because of our ongoing delicate stomachs, quite often we ate non-indian food (momos, I loooove momos, nepalese version of dim sums; pizza once… not a great experience; western style brunches with porridge, muesli or omellettes and even japanese). Aum Cafe, became a regular choice and Neru was unfortunately a late discovery. Blue Lassi was simply great. The guys there prepare the large variety of lassis fresh at the entrance of the tiny blue-painted shop, where the visitors pack, waiting for their chosen delicacies . The waiting is well worthy (don’t need to go for exotic stuff, the banana lassi is AMAZING and costs 40 of 50 IRP) and the pop music (“Sunny, sunny” the hit of the moment) and friendliness of the staff is just fantastic. They even have internet, and we had a surreal situation when we showed Heidi (Bea’s sister) the place over skype and she saw people carrying a corpse towards the river…

The Ganges, the beating heart of Varanasi. Whatever you heard about this river is true. No matter how good or how bad. It will swallow everything (corpses, furniture, heavy metals from the factories up river…) and will emerge strong and powerful (and a bit radioactive, if you ask me). It is the holiest of rivers, where people bath defying the laws of nature (and the rules of Health and Safety). If you die here, you are cremated and thrown to the Ganges and it is said that if you die in Varanasi you are automatically enlightened, which means that more and more people come to die in this place!! It is the alpha and the omega, where it all starts and ends.

And like this we finish this posting. This place was simply amazing and we could talk for hours about our experiences but it would simply be too long so we let you guys with a compilation of pics. Hope you enjoy them and remember to send us your comments and thoughts about the pics, the place or anything in your minds. We know we have taken a very long time to do this posting but hopefully we will give you some updated news very soon.

Oh, just click on the first one and you should get a slideshow with some comments!!!

Biiig hugs

B&J

Rishikesh

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After spending almost a week in Delhi waiting for our friend Kirstine, doing some sightseeing and trying to figure out a way to get out of here (something not so obvious, as trains get booked well in advance and you may find yourselve stuck in “hostile territory”), an urge to leave the city overcame us. We were always running late, exhausted by the energy of the city and as we grew inpatients we decided to book a luxury bus at the travel agency of the hotel we were staying (The Vivek) to leave town on the same evening. Destination: Rishikesh, the capital of yoga for westerners.

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A city where vegetarian food is NOT an option, it’s the only food you will get! A place where the waters of Ganga river still flow clear and clean and the number if ashrams offering lodging and yoga courses is only rivalled by the number of “German Bakeries” growing around, we counted 4 in a 1 Km radius, more or less and none of them run by Germans but rather by Nepalese people…

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The trip was another rollercoaster, after paying 600 Rp per person (7 EUR, a lot of money taking into account you are travelling by bus, but we were paying surcharges for the short notice) to escape Delhi, we had to spend 12 hours in an oooold bus with broken windows. The driver of the shuttle bus took 2 hours extra to collect all the passengers and take us to the meeting point, close to the Red Fort in Delhi, and the bus we were supposed to take left without us. I don’t know who was the smat guy who thought the travelling through Delhi with a big bus to pick us all up 1 hour before the trip was a good idea but he was VERY WRONG. Traffic here is madness and I have no clue why but this evening streets were closed, I think it had something to do with a demonstration for the anniversary of the girl who was raped in a bus by 7 people and died later on, or by some electoral events (many things going on here always). Even the Indians were furious with the guy, but after missing the bus, the most important thing was to leave the city, so we just got in the replacement bus and endured the ride. They dropped us 5-6 Km away from where we wanted to go and told us this was the only stop before continuing towards Haridwar.

“Luckyly” for us, a few rickshaws were waiting there to take us wherever we wanted to go but we were so pissed off, we walked all the way to the ashram. A nice 1 hour morning walk after a horrible night, a bit chilly but very mind-clearing. Now, imagine our surprise when we got to Laxman Jhula bridge to find most of the passengers walking in group, touristing the town with the bus driver and smiling at us like if they were happy to see us again when they had all told us they were going to Haridwar!!! Are you kidding me???

Anyway, by then our priorities were others and breakfast at the German Bakery was all we could think of. Niiiiice! Everything in Rishikesh was different, the air was so clean, the people was not constantly coming towards you… we even so people jogging! Not Indians though, for this place, holy and ancient as it is, was made so popular by the Beatles that nowadays most of the attractions are made for us, who overflow the town looking for enlightment. This does not mean the place is not visited by Indians. December is actually on of the months were westerners tend to leave town, looking for warmer areas in the south like Goa or Kerala, while Indians, profiting from their New Year holidays, come to visit the temples and bath in the river. It is nice to see Indians doing tourism in their country. It brings you closer and makes you feel less like an intruder.

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Following Kirstine’s advice we decided to stay at Anam Prakash Ashram. A place devoted to the teaching of Yoga with an Indian guru and his Canadian wife. Unfortunately, the last yoga course was just finished and the guru left the ashram the same day we arrived. We were not able to learn from him but the place was our perfect place to relax, practice yoga and suffer our first diahrreas of the trip. Maybe the body had just been holding while we were in Delhi and most probably the cold conditions and poor rest of the trip played their part, but as soon as we got here we all started feeling the symptoms. The ayurvedic doctor adviced as to drink electrolites to avoid dehidration and eat kitchri lentils (the “illness-killer” meal, as one of the people in the ashram defined this dish) to keep us strong. Thinking about it I don’t know how would we gave managed in a different place. The food at the ashram was reaaaaally good and the tranquility and friendliness was almost shocking after Delhi.

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Unfortunately we understood why most people tend to leave in winter. We came from Austria escaping from the cold and found ourselves sleeping in our sleeping bags with winter underwear, hat and three blankets on top, defenitely not the weather we wanted. The days were sunny and warm but the sun would go down at 5pm and from that moment on, temperatures would quickly drop 15-20 degrees. So after 5 evenings here we left to Haridwar and took a train south back to Delhi. The Idea was to go directly to the Tourist Centre at the station and book the main trips for the rest of our stay in India: Delhi-Kandwa (to get to Omkareshwar) and Nasik-Varanasi (after the Yoga course). This way, our door out of Delhi would be secured (we could not leave the same day but just the day after) and knowing the problems to find tickets, the longest journey (28 hours to Varanasi) would also be saved.

We said bye to our lovely friend Kirstine, hoping to see her again in Varanasi in february and we thought “See you soon, Rishikesh”, with the hope to return to this beautiful place, to visit the falls, the temples and to dip into the Big lovely holy Ganga when the temps are warmer 😉

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Travel agents, tourist offices, reservation centres, DTTDC and city maps! Or how to move around Delhi and not loose your temper

Hi again!

Long time not heard, eh!? Well, in the next week we hope to catch up a bit but first we had to post a couple of stories left behind so here is the continuation of Delhi! I’ll let you read and you let us know what you think!?

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How do you recognise you are not an experienced traveller? When you fall for a scam that is mentioned in the travel guides! That was us and the adventure of finding an official tourist office (DTTDC… Sorry, I don’t remember what it means but here in India, the longer the initials the more important the office is!).

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Delhi is defenitely not a straight forward city. The first time you get here you may know (roughly or accurately) where you are but when you try to go from point A to point B in town… well that is another story. The conglomeration of stalls, rubbish, construction equipment, police blockages, advertisments and decoration makes similarities between your idea of the way and the reality almost inexistant. Streets may change shape from one day to another or from day to night. Rickshaws and Tuk Tuks also play their part, blocking your path along the way and trying to convince you to take their services. Finally, you have touts who will try to “help” you in your desperation, chatting with you in the meantime to obtain the information they need and see if they can convince you to go to a tourist centre, where you can get better information and they can get a commission… All out of pure goodness.

With all this, maps become some sort of treasure to bring light out of the darkness! They are sometimes difficult to find (our hotel promised us several times that they would give us one) and they tend to concentrate in describing main points, showing you the rough locations of the monuments and main attractions but skipping streets and alleys on the way. We decided to go to the DTTDC, to obtain a good one, but ended up visiting 3 or 4 (thanks to the touts) before finally reaching the correct destination. There, the officers gave us some tips about how to move around in town and where to organise our tickets out of Delhi, all without the hassle or stress of travel agencies.

So, happy and relaxed, we decided to make our way back to the hotel when a person approached us and asked us if his colleague had cleared all our doubts. He sounded so smooth and natural, we really thought he was working in the office and was just out of duty. He adviced us not to talk to people on the streets and asked us if the tickets were all sorted out. When we mentioned we had to go to the Tourist Office at the train station he looked surprised and told us about the train office around the corner… “No, not again” we thought, but he showed us in the map that we had just collected from “his” office so we followed him and we ended up in another travel agency, repeating the same routine about where to go in india and blablabla. Of course we never booked any tickets in any of the offices, but we ended up exhausted from the continuous fight and the need to be always alert.

Back in the hotel room, we read the guide and found out an article describing exactly what had happened to us, commenting that the point showing in the map corresponds to the old DTTDC location, that was closed a few years ago. The maps still show it, what has boomed the number of agencies in the area using this as a catching technique… Smart asses!!!

So, a couple of things to learn:

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– always follow your instincts and if you don’t trust someone, don’t be afraid just to ignore him, it may be more efficient than saying “No” continuously… And it will save you energy.

– NEVER say “this is my first trip to India”, this is crucial because as soon as you admit you have no clue about the way things work, you are lost!

– take it EASY. This is India’s toughest test for us. As days pass by, you will start feeling used to it and that will reflect in the way people treat you.

– guides are not only listings of hotels, restaurants and tourist spots. The most important information there is the history, cultural and social tips they can provide. This won’t change as quick as the favourite backpacker spots and can save you from a nervous breakdown!

 

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All in all, Delhi was a very interesting city. It is massive and foreigners tend to concentrate in specific areas where you may feel safer but need to live with a normal level of harrasment. Don’t be afraid to get out of the Main Bazar area but remember, India is a pure jungle (with it’s main principle, “the survival of the fittest”), however, this one seems to have lots of lions and you may feel like the only zebra around! To survive you need to mutate your western habits. You need to slow down your pace, don’t rush or the lions will spot you. Don’t stare at people or places or they will assume you want something. Finally, thicken your skin to resist the continuous “bites”, grow patient. This way you’ll become the all-resisting elephant!

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Big hugs,

Bea and Jose

Day off!!!

Hallo, hallo, hallo!!!

Finally Saturday!!! I had forgotten the feeling you get at work when weekend arrives!!

Today we have our weekly day off and being the first time, the whole group decided to come to Nasik to check their emails/Facebook/news/blogs! That and buying enough snacks/toiletries for a week!!!

The Yoga course was recommended to us by Robert, our personal India travel-guide (remember the posting about Omkareshwar?) and it is proving to be another pearl in our travel. The surroundings and impressive, the classes are very interesting, the staff is very special (each teacher in its own way) and the food is just amazing. They advised us at the beginning of the course that we will loose weight… and I just cannot stop eating!!! Soooo delicious!!

Getting up at 5am is sometimes a little challenging but as we are supposed to keep silence from 10pm and we fall anyway into bed around this time (can you believe that knowing us????),  its not too bad.

And you can not imagine how nice it is to do your 2 hours Asana Class  early in the morning and just when we finish the Surianamaskar (Sun Salutation) the sun is coming out 🙂

Here is a link to their website:
http://www.yogapoint.com/info/ttcourse.htm

This course is highly recommendable, connected to the Bihar School and with an  Ayurveda Hospital we benefit from a lot of practical examples. Also, for all who have already a TTC, the therapeutic TTC seems to be very interesting too (maybe the next time in India for us? 🙂

Tomorrow we will have our first Asana Exam, so dear friends and family, we still have some learning and practicing to do and as Ashram life is busy it’s our last chance to do it today.

Or maybe we take the opportunity to get a little cafe down the road before the Ashram Taxi takes us back to the center at 6pm 😉 Oh, Robert, what was your famous quote: “Bea, do you reaaaally need it”? The food in the ashram is mainly vegan (with small exceptions visible  for everybody), ayurvedic and cooked with so much love. But of course no coffein, no black tea, and little sugar only, so on a day like this, indulgence and cravings come into mind!

Oh, we have a couple of pictures to include in this posting but technology is limited so we will have to wait a bit. Maybe next time I am able to edit the posting and include them. Until then… Loads of love!!!

Hari Ohm!!!

 

 

Best Wishes for 2014!!

Namaste! Hello hello everyone!

After a beautiful Christmas we write you a short message hoping you had a lovely ending of 2013, making sure you ate everything on your plates and did not waste much!!

This is a very short posting to inform you that for the next month we will be out of connection! As of tomorrow we will start our Yoga Teacher Training Course and will be secluded in an ashram in the middle of nowhere (but close to Trembak… around Nasik). A place full with snakes and mountains and supposed to be a very holy place (mainly for Shiva devotees).

We will be back to the world at the end of January. Until then, remember to follow your New Year resolutions and as someone told us recently: Remember the past but live in the present not thinking only about the future. Be always present, conscious about what you are doing at this precise moment and at the end of every day write a few sentences about what you lived. Acknowledge what happened and how you felt about it, learn the lesson and pass the page.

Big hugs for all of you and see you/read you/hear you SOON!

Merry Christmas

View of some of the temples in the island

View of some of the temples in the island

I was supossed to continue our stories of India in a chronological order and tell you about the crazyness of Delhi and the experiences in Rishikesh, but days pass faster than one can count or write and destiny has decided we should spend Christmas in this holy city. And I think it really is exactly what we needed.

We came here not knowing exactly what to expect. We got only a tip from our friend Robert (to whom we will be forever grateful) to spend some days in an ashram a bit further after crossing the bridge that links the mainland to this little island magically shaped in the form of an “Ohm”. In this piece of land owned by the ashram, people devote their lifes and efforts to provide education for children from the area.

The entrance to the ashram and behind the gate to the school

The entrance to the ashram and behind the gate to the school

Roughly 500 students are accueilled. From different ages (mostly only roughly guessed) and backgrounds. 42 of these, reside in the ashram, together with some teachers and other people. These are kids with family issues, that cannot or would not remain with their parents (alcoholism, poverty, death, violence). The ashram, through the donation of benefactors and guests staying here, have managed to increase the number of children and the infrastructures (housing, library, temple, kitchen, computer room), a work that provokes admiration and respect. In a day that has so little significance for eastern countries, we happened to arrive by chance on the celebration of the sports day in the school, a 3-day event that started today with several activities, including a dance performance (of which we were made participants), some classical school sports (potato-bag race, three leg race, lemon balancing on a spoon,…) and of course, cricket!

Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony

Opening Unofficial Ceremony

Opening Unofficial Ceremony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Potato bag race

The day continued with an expectacular meal prepared by a neighbour ashram, that celebrates another event and is feeding the whole town today: anyone coming to the ashram is granted a set of delicacies like rice, roti bread, tomato chutney, matter paneer, rice milk or sone very sweet flour balls. Maybe it is all too much for my delicate stomach, but i will have to deal with it later, for the moment I am just amazed. It is only 3pm by the time I am writting this and I still dont know what the rest of the day will bring but being away from all our beloved ones I cannot think of any better place to be. The serenity, friendliness, generosity (and not forgetting the 27 degrees I think we have) surely will comfort our families, knowing we cannot be with them. And as this was supposed to be just a little post, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas full of love, peace and harmony. A big hug to our papas, mamas, brothers, sisters and smaller ones and lets read us again soon.

View from our terrace, with one of the shrines below and the Narmada river

View from our terrace, with one of the shrines below and the Narmada river

Delhi, arrival to the big madhouse

Sitting at the rooftop terrace of our hotel in Delhi, it is difficult to remember Dubai. It has been just a few hours since we arrived and all the past impressions have quickly faded away, erased by the continuous new inputs from this crazy city. i have a weird mixture of insecurity and serenity. A feeling created by this combination of simple Indian amability, together with their genuine curiosity and exhasperating perseverance to try to do business with you and of course the touts.

The arrival to Delhi was… Memorable! We had decided to take the metro to Rama Krishna Ashram Station and walk a few meters to our hotel, The Vivek. Unfortunately, we left the airport and turn the wrong way to find ourselves staring at a red Airport Express bus. Bea’s old memories arouse and n urge to jump in and see the city as we arrive consumed her. We asked the driver for directions and he told us “…no problem. The bus no stop in Main Bazar but close. 1’5 Km. 20 min, 15 min. OK, 10 minutes. 1 Km only”. It looked like he was bargaining with us how far from our destination he would drop us! Remembering the news of recent rapes, I checked to see other women in the bus. I saw an Arabic family that seemed to be as lost as we were so I relaxed and tried to enjoy the ride (75 R each… That’s about 90 cents). WHAT A RIDE! I really think Indian cars only have one pedal, for the gas! The way they take the curves, they squeeze between competitors in this endless races, it is just incredible. 6 lines squashed in a three way motorway. This includes cars, vans, bikes, rickshaws, bicycles and pedestrians, all together. It is the closest thing I have seen to the frenzy of snakes mating! All turning left and right, stopping and accelerating, with the coordination of an improvised jam “driving” session. This dance was scored by an orchestra of claxons and accompaigned by a strong stench of smog which firced us to cover our noses with a cloth mask at one point. Not so much because if the smell but for the thickness of the air. Only one placed has topped this experience, a corner chicken takeaway shop in Bethnal Green. The clouds of vaporised fat coming out of the friers were so intense you could almost bite it! The bus dropped us (literally, they do not fully stop), at a biiiig junction and the driver told us we had to walk along a wall (the separation between the road and the metro line). It was a big dark ugly road that would scare the shit out of batman. At 22h00, extrange shadows, people sleeping on the road, on the rickshaws, on the rubbish; wanderers with wooden sticks coming out of nowhere, stray dogs, transvestite prostitutes in saris (or maybe they were women, but in very bad shape)… You name it, they had it. 15 endless minutes until we finally reached the Main Bazar where, of course, people tried tiredlessly to drag us into their commissioned guest house. The best option, ask someone from a shop, someone who is not involved at all in this business. We did it at a SUBWAY and the guys helped a lot. Once at the hotel we got the typical options, a cheaper room for 650 Rupees (window to the corridor of the hotel, a toilet that saw better days… a looong time ago,…) and the one they really want to sell you for 750 Rupees. With this trick we almost skipped the holes in the sheet, but they were too big not to be seen and after a couple of reminders, we got the room and they gave us a new sheet (but no discount, it was too late for bargaining and the room was actually nice. By the time we were settled, most of the kitchens were closed. We stopped at the Diamond Cafe (in front of the hotel) and got a delicious Malai Kofta(something like vegetarian meatballs with cheese and in a thick sweet sauce) and Fried Black Dal, together with rice and Aloo Parantha (bread filled with potatoes), our first Indian meal. A bomb for our stomachs that kept us awake until 3am! Luckily, the time difference meant we could talk to our families in Europe and after a bit of Bollywood music on our TV (luxury room!) we slept like angels.

Next: travel agents, tourist offices, reservation centres, DTTDC and city maps! Or how to move around Delhi and remain tempered.

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This is the road we had to walk, but I did not have the guts to take the camera and make a picture the first evening!

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This is Main Bazar in Pahar Ganj.

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View of the street from tge bar at the rooftop of the hotel.

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In many places you need to write down the order yourself!

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To make sure you get what you wanted!

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You shoul ask before you take a picture but they normally accept, and like to show off… even when they can hardly move!

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Father and son playing cricjet at tge celebration of the elder’s wedding. All by a 15th century monument… try to play football by El Escorial!!

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Fantastic tomb monuments from the islamis period 15-16 century in Lodi Gardens.

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After all the hectic life in town, a stroll in the park is a gods blessing!

Checkpoint Dubai: Done!

 

 

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Dubai? What can you say about this place that nobody has said before? “I love it?”?

That would be a lie… or two. First because in spite of being a very interesting place, it is defenitely NOT our dreamed place to live and second, because actually somebody told us today that he loved Dubai! He was one of the employees at the Dubai Museum, but as an old India who still lives here after 37 years, I will take it as a genuine comment, and not just as a tourist cheap chat.

This is a city of huge contrasts. A city that is proud of offering everything while having almost nothing. A land where almost nothing grows and most of the products are imported. Lucky for them, the one thing they do have is oil and with it they can get all they need, and boy they do. The tallest building on Earth, the largest shopping mall (next to the building), the only 7-stars hotel in the world, two artificial palms on the sea and as they proudly indicate at the airport upon arrival, more than 500 Guiness records and over 900 skyscrappers! All built in 20 years!!! Here you can swim on the beach or slide on the snow 4 seasons a year (actually, Dubai has only 2 seasons but you know what I mean), enjoy delicious food from 5 continents in a single building and get anything you want providing that you have 3 things: a big large fat wallet.

Dubai offers everything and they offer it directly to your door, no matter day or night. You can order a full catered dinner or a bag of ice cubes, it is up to your urges. We saw a guy from a shop jump on his bicycle to deliver a Magnum icecream to a security guard that was posted… 50 meters away…

Here it is! The delivery boy with the icecream! Pitty I did not catch the moment he gave it to the guard!

Here it is! The delivery boy with the icecream! Pitty I did not catch the moment he gave it to the guard!

This proud exhibit of wealth and power is however the shinny side of the coin, a side so bright it makes difficult to see the counterpart. How is all this madness substained? Nationals represent 10% of the population and do not need to work. Simple as that. They can live on benefits (several thousands of Euros a month) from the government for being nationals and retain these benefits as long as they do not marry a foreigner. Sometimes foreign companies are forced to contract nationals depending on the size of the company. These positions are normally paid WAY over market standards and the expected productivity of the employee is questionable. First-World-Country inmigrants (Europeans, Americans, Australians, etc.) make up 20% and usually come to management positions, sent by their head quarters. The rest are mainly Indian, Pakistanis, Nepalese, Filipinos, Africans and Chinese (altogether roughly 70% of the population) who are in charge of doing the undercovered job. While tourists get blinded by the bling of the massive cars that cross the kilometrical avenues (a 3.7 litre Ford with 280 horse power is a minor thing when you can full up a petrol tank with just 20€ and Dubai is VERY extensive), the army of human ants shuttle between their job locations and their homes (in residential areas in the desert) in private company buses similar to the old ones used in India or Thailand, lacking A/C and being at times overcrowded. These people are kept in the country with the passport retained by the employer, to avoid unexpected dissapearances, something that happens commonly, mainly when they go on holiday and do not return. It’s a strange working relationship at the least! Despite all of this, I feel like I am missing something. I feel like I am just judging Dubai with preconceptions and easy accusations.

This is a small country with a relatively small amount of oil, compared to the neighbours. However, the metropoli has managed to locate itself at the centre of the world and people continue to come to work here at a larger rate year after year. The magnificence of the architecture is unquestionable, with new buildings and development extravaganzas being planed continuously. Also, the weather conditions are almost perfect (saving the extreme summer heat) for a small holiday escape. l guess it is just a simple question of preferences and although I fully enjoyed seeing my old friend from London, eating out, staring at the multicolor skyline in the evening and sun bathing by the swimming pool, this is definitely a place I can easily tick off my trip list without thinking of going back.

The Old Zoug in old Dubai. I went from being called "John" to "Jack Sarrow" and finally "Bin Laden"!!!!!

The Old Zoug in old Dubai. I went from being called “John” to “Jack Sarrow” and finally “Bin Laden”!!!!!

 

Coolest grafitti! Have a look at the name of the painter!!

Coolest grafitti! Have a look at the name of the painter!!

Nice libanese diner with our friend Rodrigo

Nice libanese diner with our friend Rodrigo

Libanese by the river! Nice location and nice juices, but the houmous could not match the revious one.

Libanese by the river! Nice location and nice juices, but the houmous could not match the previous one.

All Indian tourists around want to have a picture like this! Don't ask me why...

All Indian tourists around want to have a picture like this! Don’t ask me why…

Like Valdelagrana!! But tenfold!

Like Valdelagrana!! But tenfold!

Yes, the metro here has a female zone. This way man don't get disturbed by women!!!

Yes, the metro here has a female zone. This way man don’t get disturbed by women!!!

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I really like this picture of our boat trip!

Public river shuttles between the two sides.

Public river shuttles between the two sides.

Bus stops with air conditioning! Try to wait for a bus with 45 degrees otherwise!

Bus stops with air conditioning! Try to wait for a bus with 45 degrees otherwise!

Final chill before heading to the airport. It's 10h30!

Final chill before heading to the airport. It’s 10h30!

 

Dubai is finished. Next stop, Delhi ;-)

Dubai is finished. Next stop, Delhi 😉

 

 

 

 

Winter is coming? Not for us!

Well, I hope you did not think we would stop after reaching Innsbruck, eh?

Yes, we took time to rest our lovely butts and to realize what we had just done (although I am not really sure if we actually realized it). We also needed some time to look for our next destination and plan (ahahahha, “PLAN”) our next adventure.

Well, the time is up! Tickets are booked, countries are chosen and we are leaving… in a few hours!!! Somethings never change ;-)

We are supposed to go to Munich Airport early morning, so note this: if you need to go from Innsbruck to Munchen Airport there is an alternative to the well known “4Seasons” airport taxi transfer. It is called Meinfernbus (www.meinfernbus.de) and for as little as 11€ (one way advanced booking) will take you there in 3 hours. Not bad, comparing to the 86€ return ticket from the taxi service! It won’t take you to your home door but it will cost you 60€ less!!!

Well, well, well! Now to the important stuff. Where do we go now? How long? Why?

We will depart today at 14h25: destination DUBAI! After a few days catching up with a goooooood old friend of ours we will continue towards INDIA, where we will spend the next 2 months practicing yoga and getting to know the country a bit more.

Next stop will be Hong Kong for 5 days!! Again visiting friend before we head towards an Euro-Oceanic wedding in Wellington, NEW ZEALAND!! Yuhuuuuu!!! We will take this opportunity to spend 6 weeks hanging around and enjoying the end of summer there, before starting our way back to Europe… But the trip is not over!

Next stop will be MELBOURNE, again visiting some friends… It’s great to know people who live abroad!!!! This is just a stop over so we will stay there for about a week before heading to SINGAPORE, where we will start the last part of our journey. We will travel by train through MALASIA and THAILAND until BANGKOK, where our plane will be awaiting for us 24 days later and will take us back to MUNICH on 30/04/14.

All in all, almost 5 months to recover from the -5 degrees we are currently having here in Innsbruck!

We have collected so many travel guides and we still have no clue what we will do while abroad. We are open to what the journey brings us and to your suggestions, so let us know your ideas and if we like them, have the time, the money… and the courage… we will try to do them!

Big hugs from the both of us and please, PLEASE, PLEEEAAASSSSEEE write us your comments, thoughts and ideas. In the past weeks, many friends told us they have been looking at the blog and it was so nice to know what we had done, but we never knew it because they did not tell us!! It is also very nice to receive messages from you too from time to time!

Thank you all and let the journey begin!