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Nepal (part deux)

The difference two weeks make. Arriving back in to Kathmandu, our second impression is so much different than the first. Instead of the dirty, scary, desolate city we arrived into February 19, we are greeted by a welcome calmness compared to India. The city is alive and bustling, and much cooler than the sweltering heat we had experienced in Delhi the day before.

For the next seven days we are in the hands of Shorty- a lovely Kathmandu local who will be leading us through our Annapurna journey. It's just the three of us now- and our porter An-the-man and another who will join us in Pokhara.

A few observations... We are realizing how adapted we have become to our lifestyle while traveling. There are many things which were novel (or bizarre) at first, which are now not of much concern. The top ten:

1. Military with guns and sticks. Whenever you spot them, they are always carrying a mean looking stick and some type of rifle. Not a completely foreign sight, however we are getting used to seeing them pretty much everywhere we go, through India and Nepal.
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2. Garbage. Obviously our ability to ignore the trash speaks volumes on how the locals likely feel about it as well. By far the worst was in Varanasi, but it's hardly noticeable any more.
3. Dirty feet. Regardless of what we do, all three of us have ridiculously dirty feet by the end of the day. The dirt tan has become embraced in our Trio as a thing of beauty. I unfortunately never seem to get the best dirt tan- I think it might contrast better on alabaster skin tones.
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(please note the dust in the picture...)
4. Cows. Our first day in Pokhara we saw two cows walking on the sidewalk and we chased them down to take pictures. We could really care less about them now, as they're not going anywhere fast, and aside from trying to eat off our plates at lunch in Orchha or hip check is while we're running through Varanasi, they are no longer getting much attention from us.
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5. The beds: our first night at Hotel Fuji, we thought the beds were hard and uncomfortable. Round two? They might be some of the most comfortable we have slept on in weeks.
6. Everything about using the toilet facilities. The squatting, the dark, the smell, the occasional splash back. All pretty much par for the course. We will say by far the worst was the train station in Jhansi (Orchha) however.
7. Cold showers. B is having the toughest time adapting to not having warm showers- but I'll give credit where it is due, she's a trooper. Sometimes we get warm water, but not too often. But when you're covered in dust and dirt- you gotta do what you gotta do.
8. Sporadic electricity. This one applies more to Nepal, but sometimes the electricity cuts out. In Delhi the power went while I was showering, and B came to the rescue with her headlamp so I could finish shaving my legs. This is what best friends are for.
9. Street chaos. Not even an issue after Varanasi. We're pretty much local now, jumping in and out of traffic, always walking on the streets, side stepping the occasional cow patty or stray dog.
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10. Not having to carry a purse. Ok this one only applies to me, as B suggested I ditch my ratty black purse back in Chitwan. I have been purse free for almost 2 weeks, while B and the Ging carry my life around. It's just so liberating.

Now time to get out of the city and into the mountains.

A little wiser now-
The Traveling Trio

Sent from my iPad

Posted by ellie nicole 04:56 Archived in Nepal Tagged military india dirt nepal showers kathmandu toilets cows electricity Comments (0)

Famous Last Words

The good news for Chewy is that up until now, everyone has been accounted for (even when the Aussies were lost, we sort of knew where they were). We get to the train station and only have a few minutes before the train leaves. Seeming as we are always well fed and hydrated, we were not in a hurry to get food- but Skinny and Poutine were. So, off they go to find train platform snacks... Skinny is back rather quick with some random packaged food (quite the change from the white starch he's been eating since Varanasi). The train starts moving... Chewy casually walks back to come play cards with us and we realize- no Poutine. And the train is off the platform on its way to the next station. What a stressful mess!! After watching Chewy run up the train a few times, she randomly surfaced from another carriage. Dodged that bullet.

I'm starting to like the trains, and have managed to restrict my fluid intake enough before train rides that I haven't had to use the toilets once (thank you dinosaur bladder). We are traveling in first class air conditioned cabins mostly, and they have been quite nice (nice is a relative term here). My favorite part has been being able to buy hot chai in tiny cups while we're sitting playing cards or while I'm writing to all of you out there. It's actually very relaxing.

When we arrive in Delhi the three of us had to get to the airport to finalize changing our tickets. G Adventures only uses 2 or 3 taxi drivers in Delhi, because they are very reliable and honest, we're told. Chewy hooks us up with a lift to the airport and we're off. Without being long winded- we had a minor catastrophe with changing our tickets. We ended up with tickets to Kat on March 8 (instead of March 5), and there were absolutely no seats left on any of the Jet Airways flights on Sunday or Monday. So frustrating! But when you get lemons, add some vodka and power through. We ended up buying three new tickets on IndiGo for March 5. We'll deal with trying to get a refund when we have more time.

When we left the terminal- we had one of the most intense paparazzi moments yet. People with camera phones multiplied rapidly- taking our photos, some posing with us, others just trying to get as many photos as possible. At the point Ging yelled "uh, that one's got a video camera!" we took off across the road to try and find our driver. 15 minutes of fame- check.

In the afternoon we went to see the India Gate, a monument in memory of the soldiers who gave their lives in battles for India. It is likely the most touristy space we have been to, with street vendors everywhere, children peddling handmade bracelets and even suave looking Indian men boasting to take your picture for you. We found out from G6 a bit later that he had been harassed by a young girl to buy a bracelet, and the entire altercation garnered a bit of an audience... The poor kid even turned on the water works. Note to the wise: just say no, and keep saying no. Poor G6. Big heart and wants to help everyone (he had his change for the poor in his pocket), but is just getting hassled by the aggressive ones here in Delhi.

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For our last supper, the group went out together to a restaurant called Spicy by Nature in Karol Bagh. It was hands down the best meal we have had in India so far. All of the dishes had a unique flavor- and the Mushroom Dhingri was amazing!!! We had a stock standard share fest again- palak paneer, chana masala, tandoori kadai gobhi and tandoori roti. A perfect meal for the three of us. Skinny and G6 went to town on the menu- consuming copious amounts of food (and the girliest drinks on the menu). I am honestly shocked to watch how these kittens eat!!

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G6's dinner

After dinner, we wanted to round out our trip with a night on the town. Now you think it would be easy to convince the Aussies to come out- but it was like pulling teeth! They finally caved and joined us for a drink at Jade Garden... Let's just say that none of them are winning any awards for their drink choices. Chocolatini? Way to do Oz proud boys. After one drink, the boys called it a night. The three of us walked another half block before deciding that Delhi at night was not where we should be by ourselves.

Sunday was our last day in Delhi. Naturally, we ventured out to check out the Meena Bazaar in the city. Delhi has one of the nicest metro's I have been on, is quite easy to navigate, and accesses many parts of the city (airport included). As the capital of India, the city is beginning to become more evolved in terms of cleanliness in comparison with the rest of The country. There were trash bins (and recycling bins) for once! Because of this- the new, very modern metro is actually clean and comfortable. Interesting fact: there are women only cars on the metro. Food for thought I suppose.

The Meena Bazaar was intense. Not only was it scorching hot outside, the market was crowded with men, all shuffling through, purchasing jeans and shirts and such. This was actually only our second experience with groping in public. Nothing serious, just a bum grab, but it's disturbing nonetheless as it is definitely nothing that any of us expect/welcome. The only solution is to try and avoid crowded places- which can be difficult depending where you are. After about 20 minutes of being hassled and harassed at the market, we ducked out into an open courtyard to make a decision about how we were going to get ourselves out of there and to somewhere to have lunch. Even sitting outside the chaos, within a minute we had an audience of about 15 men, just standing and watching us. Chewy- if you ever read this- at that moment we appreciated how much having you around deterred this from happening during the trip. Luckily, a kind old gentleman yelled at the crowd and they scattered. We all really wish we knew what he said.

After a disgustingly large lunch of masala dosa and poori, we headed back to the hotel to meet the Aussies. Holi (the festival of colors), is on Thursday. Basically: food, drink, water balloons and colored powder. So much fun! The kids are getting prepped for it already, and on our walk back, B gets ambushed by 4 little boys with water balloons! Her entire back was soaking wet and the three of us giggle our way back to the hotel. I hope we get to play Holi in Annapurna.

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Too much for the 3 of us!

Skinny is down for the count again- poor kid has just not had great luck with India. So G6, Curly, the Norwegians and the Trio had a nice last meal together at Spicy by Nature. Being the last night, we thought we'd have some fun, so after dinner we decided to enjoy a few pops on the roof of our hotel... Dear Aussies: I talked some smack and then Karma got me. You can count that one- thanks for being fun on our last night in India!

We're back in Kat now to start the next part of the adventure: trekking Annapurna. It's going to be a massive change from what we've been doing- but we're all stoked about it. Our 15 day jaunt with our group was fantastic. Great to get to know some new people from around the world in your travels. We'll miss the Norwegian Boy sneaking up on us and scaring us, the cuteness of the Brits holding hands everywhere we went, the watchful eyes (and card cheating eyes) of Chewy who always had our back- and I suppose hearing about the HHH's and the BT Combos from the Aussies (FYI we have been spotting lots of HHH today kittens). But on to the next chapter. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of this story.

We'll miss you India,
L, B & the Ging

Sent from my iPad

Posted by ellie nicole 09:46 Archived in India Tagged nature india hotel metro sunrise garden by delhi gate jade spicy karol bagh Comments (1)

First thoughts of Incredible India

27 °C

How do you put into words an experience that cannot be compared to anything else you have ever encountered in your life? Emotions, smells, sights- all of these things which are used to convey a message- when everything is so raw it is impossible to lead a person to vicariously experience something through your words. That is India. Unless you have been here, you won't understand. And if you have- remember that feeling of awe and bewilderment you experienced the first time you encountered this shear mass of culture. How would you explain it?

Varanasi is dry and dusty, the buildings are all mostly a shade of brown or grey. Whether built that color or faded by the sunlight over time, the city is monochromatic. Cows are in every ditch, corner, sidewalk and street- completely unaware of the swarm of activity going on around them. The roads are lined with moto-rickshaws, pedal rickshaws, pedal bikes, motorcycles, scooters and people. People are everywhere, some in traditional Hindu or Muslim dress, others in Western wears, and they are mostly men. They are sitting in small open store fronts or crouching in the street having their hair cut and a blade shave. They are carrying crates of chickens or pushing carts full of fresh vegetables. Those not doing anything are watching. Patiently observing everything that is going on as they appear to be somehow isolated from the intensity buzzing around in front of them. The streets are dirty, paper and plastic garbage mainly, fresh and dried cow dung scattered through the street. In the base of the 5 to 10 story buildings are store fronts which seem barely large enough to fit whatever goods may be for sell or trade. Every third or fourth shop is selling cooked food from large metal pots over propane stoves- bright yellow curries, fried goods drenched in honey syrups or pots full of lentils and thick vegetable gravies. The air is filled with the sound of the traffic- horns from cars, rickshaws and bikes, the shouting of neighbors passing across busy streets, the crackle of food frying and the rampant clatter of feet in every direction.

We are being watched by every person in the street. Some curious, others friendly and a few judgmental passers by. We are a strange sight in a sea of Pan-Asian faces. Our light skin, different colored hair, our clothing, our laughter and chatter all attracting the attention of those who had not noticed us passing through their World. And we are passing through their World- we are staring as much as them- but less at their physical appearance and more about the way of life in a country of 1.25 billion people.

Side streets are narrow and dark, even in the day light. Monkeys scurry along the balconies unphased by anyone else. The city is one of the oldest living cities, streets are not built in uniform fashion; they wind left and right at a whim. Parts are muddy and wet from water being thrown from a nearby food stall, the signs for local business appearing possibly to have been completed 10-15 years prior- and neglected ever since. The alleys are as wide as your arms splayed open, and barefoot laborers are pushing carts full of bricks, and the smell of musk hangs in the dusty air.

And so this is India. I can't believe we took so long to get here.

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Speechless and excited,
L

Sent from my iPad

Posted by ellie nicole 22:06 Archived in India Tagged india varanasi impressions Comments (0)

Function over Fashion? Blasphemy.

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Anxiety in its purest form

Tonight the packing began. Now I will admit that I have an abnormal phobia of packing. Although I wouldn't classify myself as being high maintenance, I like to match. I like my shoes and my handbags. I like my dangly earrings and big thick bangles. But now not only do I have to pack for 6 weeks in a backpack... I need to pack for conservative India, trekking Nepal, outrageous Thailand, and lethargic Lombok. How on earth am I going to manage this?

The picture clearly shows the disaster that ensued. I think it is likely that this post is a rant and I will give an official "definitely don't forget this" list sometime in mid March.... There needs to be a post from someone as shallow as me worrying about fashion and meds in India and Nepal (it's not like it's the Moon, right??)

So to start I think I've got the personal hygiene and emergency medical supplies all covered off. Everything from extra strength Tylenol to melatonin and pepto tabs. I've got it covered. To keep things simple, B, Kitten and I are dividing up these items for the trip. No sense in bringing three of everything. I however have a complete inability to estimate the volume of product I will require for 6 weeks (other than hair spray of course). So we're either going to run out of everything or it will weigh us all down for the entire trip.

On a fashion/function perspective: I have not even thought about accessories. Ok, I'll take some earrings and I'll likely wear my LNL pendant. But that's all (for now). I am reasonably certain I have narrowed my footwear down to 4 pairs: hikers, thongs, nikes, flats, metallic sandals (oops... that's 5!!). I have managed to find two chiffon dresses which should be light and conservative enough for India and Nepal... Also included, several more fun (and less length) numbers for Phuket... Conserving some fashion here.

There are piles of lululemon in my pack however. Tights, jackets, tanks, sports bras, scarves, long sleeves.... Now I love lulu. I own way too much of it. I don't however consider it to be "fashion". Lulu is stylish, but it's function. At home, unless I am at the rink or gym, you will not see me in lululemon on a Thursday night at Una. So this has been my compromise... An expensive one, but I am willing to take this one for the team.

Last... My anxiety cooled when I realized- I get to cherry pick from the packs of two very savy fashionista's... Blondey and Ging and I have swapped a tank or three in our time, so I will say that my number one accessory for my fashion sanity for this trip, is going to be their backpacks.

8 more sleeps...
xo L

Posted by ellie nicole 19:56 Archived in Canada Tagged india fashion packing Comments (1)

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