Travels With Myself

A Personalized Periodic Update, just for my family and friends, of the Ongoing Adventures of Your Favorite World Traveler

Location: Budapest, Hungary

After nearly 30 years in the financial industry in the US (mostly California and New Mexico), I decided it was time for my second life. I sold my house, sold my car, sold all my furniture, took a TEFL course and moved to Budapest to teach Business English to the business people of Hungary. Amazing mid-life change! I taught for about eight years, then pretty much retired. Since then I have traveled extensively, and have been to nearly 75 countries. I have had six books published, mostly about my travels - see my author's page on I have made friends all over the world. Becoming an expat is the best move I ever made and I plan to continue my travels indefinitely. Come join me on this blog and enjoy the places I've been and the people I've met in the past and present and hopefully will meet in the future.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

And Finally - India.

I had a relatively easy flight from Bangkok, but discovered a major problem when trying to check in. I had been told of a time change for my flight, but not of the airline change by my travel agents. This was quite confusing, as it turned out I was actually booked on a different airline, and had to go standby. Fortunately, I got on the plane at the last minute, so all was OK. There was one interesting event on the plane: one male Indian passenger was a loudmouth jerk and yelled at the Stews. When the plane landed and the doors opened, in came the soldiers and frog-marched him off. Last heard, he was screaming at the troops, which is not a good idea to do to men who carry loaded weapons.

I was picked up by the driver for my India Tour right on time. We drove into Delhi through horrible traffic. My driver, Veyd the Weaver, was wonderful. He weaved and dodged through the horde of other cars and motorbikes/scooters and tuk-tuks like a real Indianapolis 500 Pro. I got to the hotel and immediately went up to the rooftop restaurant/bar for a badly-needed beer. The weather had turned and the resulting breeze was cool and almost cold. It got down to about 60 (15 C) at night, and even the daytime temp was better at the mid-high 70s.

I sat and enjoyed the coolness after the enervating heat of Bangkok. I met up with a couple from Bath (He was Welsh, she from Cumbria) and enjoyed the night and the beer. He was a wild-haired ex-hippie type, with a great accent, and the evening went by nicely. We were also joined by a young French person - I think it was a girl, but short hair and high voice don't always qualify. S/he was ressed in Amy fatigues and very Butch, so excuse me if I'm not certain.

My first full day in Delhi was spent touring all the major tourist sights of the city. The long day began with a cruise through a Delhi park which was the habitation of several herds (tribes? Schools? Prides?) of wild monkeys. A good start. The Lakshmi temple: marble floors, no shoes allowed. There were swastikas all over the temple, which are seen as a lucky sign in India. We drove by Parliament, the President's house and India Gate. Streets in Delhi do have some broken-white-line lane markers, but drivers generally ignore them. As a result, two-lane streets often have three or even four lanes. We did the National Museum and the Tomb of Humanyun. At a local department store I found a really nice cashmere/silk sweater for about 1/3 of the price I would have paid in the USA. Lunch was at an Indian restaurant in strip mall sort of place. Good, but not spicy. We did the Bahai temple, which obviously owes a lot of its design to the Sydney Opera House! The Qutub Minar tower and grounds were also neat. We then finished up with a set of three temples to: Krishna, Vishnu and Hanuman, the monkey god. Beautiful.

The traffic in Delhi and, as a matter of fact, everywhere we went, was truly amazing. But Veyd had obviously adapted to his milieu and was able to handle his driving tasks with aplomb. This consisted of straddling the center line in order to be able to take advantage of any possible opening on either side of the road. He also tailgated shamelessly and used his horn like a Rome taxi driver. Actually, I think it is required to sound your horn here (they're more like Road Runner "Beeps") whenever you approach another car, want to pass, ask another driver to move out of the way, or just for kicks. Anyway, Indian traffic is extremely noisy and raucous with all the beeping. But never dull.

I finished the day at my hotel with a cooling beer on the rooftop and a light dinner. The next day, it was off to Mandawa in the mountains, about 5-6 hours southwest of Delhi. My driver, Veyd the Weaver, proved his name by using his Grand Prix weaving skills to get us deftly through all sorts of traffic, in and out of cities. And the traffic was terrible at times. Everything is allowed on the roads of India, and everything has the same right of way as everything else: cars, motor cycles/scooter/bikes, donkeys, goats, tuk-tuks, buses, camel carts, cattle, old men in wheelchairs, tourist cars coming your way on a one-way street - everything. But we got through them all, mainly by not driving faster than about 45 mph. I saw Veyd hit 80 kph a couple of times, but not often. A really special sight along ther way was the 7-foot-high mounds of drying cow patties, to be used as materials for fires. A sign leaving one small burg said, "Thanks." That was it. Interesting drive. Of course, you must remember Veyd and I spent about 5-6 hours each day on the road between cities. Luckily he wasn't a demanding conversationalist, so I had plenty of time to observe the scenery and wildlife.

The roads were fair to poor, like back-country, unmaintained asphalt roads in rural Alabama. After a major winter snowfall. Dirt and gravel through the villages. But I stayed in an old converted fortress/castle in Mandawa, reminiscent of the Raj. Great place. Had a city tour of old houses (haveli) which was a trek through trashy back streets and was not great, and then the guide then took me to his shop to try and sell me stuff. Boooo. But I did have a nice massage at the hotel, followed by a really nice buffet dinner in the garden.

After breakfast the next morning, we drove to Jaipur. I was hot and tired, so just took the respite to find an ATM, get some cash, and then hit the pool for a refreshing afternoon. After a nice nap, Veyd steered me to a favorite tourist restaurant of his, Indiana. The place was filled with only tourists, and I had what I thought was a good dinner with Richard from Edinburgh. The dancing show was good too. About 45 minutes after dinner, the stomach rumblings started, and within an hour they had progressed to a ful-blown case of Gandhi's Revenge, known locally as Delhi Belly.The snake was writhing and contracting and making his presence known in my guts, and was insistent upon hearing me cheer its efforts with loud gasps and explosions of my own. It was really nasty stuff, and I was up all night evacuating liquids from both ends. I spent most of the next day in bed, missed a full day of my Jaipur tour and my elephant ride. Bummer.

I was better enough the next day to drive to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, my major purpose for taking this particular tour of The Golden Triangle. We drove right to the hotel through the west part of town, which revealed Agra is really just a huge trash dump. The worst I had seen so far in India, and that's going some. Anyway, after a bland dinner at hotel (my stomach was still not back to normal) I was off to sleep for an early rising the next morning.

Most of the time, a person's high expectations are not reached when coming face to face with the object of those expectations. In this case, my high expectations were hugely exceeded. Everyone should see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. I'll be writing more about this intense experience in a longer version of this Blog when I include it in my next book, a collection of all my Newsletters since 1985. For now, the words would be just too much. Let's just say that if you truly want to see what human beings are capable of achieving, you should see the Taj Mahal at sunrise.

After almost literally tearing myself away, we toured the Red Fort at Agra, also a magnificent structure. Shah Jehan, builder of the Taj Mahal, died there. Lots of white marble. Then it was back to Delhi, still feeling the ill effects of the snake in my stomach. That evening I got some new medicines and hoped they would help.

They did, and the next day I was almost back to normal. I had two days left in Delhi, and spent them riding around with Veyd the Weaver, checking out the few places I hadn't seen during my first tour of the city. The Delhi Red Fort, Akshradayam temple (built on 100 acres of land, a really huge thing), Gandhi's cremation site and a great Gandhi museum, which included the exact site on which Gandhi was assassinated. Also did a few other minor sites and sights and a market or two, just to be sure I had left all of my rupees in India. Bought a few more gifts, but generally just lazed around, nursing my sore and tender guts. No more beer for this soldier on this trip.

Anyway, my flight home leaves Delhi at 7 AM Saturday, so tonight I will prepare myself to arrive at the airport around 4:30 Saturday morning, to be sure and check in on time. And, if all goes well and my plane leaves on time, and I am still booked on it, that will mark the last leg of my 2007 around-the-world tour. It's been great fun and has included some outstanding sights, adventures and food, not to mention all of my wonderful family and friends who made the trip even better. Thanks to everyone for everything - can't get more general than that. Not sure where the next trip will lead me, but will let everyone know as soon as I find out. If you recall, Dublin for the summer was a possibility! Y'all take care and keep smiling --- and NEVER eat at the Indiana restaurant in Jaipur, India!!!


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