17.5.10

From Ben's Blog-More travels in India


TUESDAY, APRIL 27, 2010


Indian escapade continues...


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I've just read my last post back to myself, and wow, so much has happened since then. Actually a fucking lot had happened since then (hopefully the swear word will emphasise how much has happened). I just want to say thank you so much guys for the positive feedback on the blog. It's so nice to hear I'm not perspiring all over the key board in an internet cafe for nothing. Well for nothing? I suppose I'll take the blog much more for granted when I return home. But anyway, thank you and please keep the good comments coming they make me feel special :)

So... Where to begin? I think I'll start by telling everyone where I've been, and a bit of detail about each place. From my last post I mentioned I was going to Jaipur in Rajasthan, so I went there from Mumbai and stayed only for two days. It was a beautiful different place Jaipur. The heat was really dry and intense and the town felt very old. Walking around the bazaar's (bazaar another name for a market or shop) watching people's daily lives was fascinating. I would've loved to have explored the desert and towns in Rajasthan, but other places were calling out for me. After Rajasthan I hit Agra to see the milky-white glorious structure that is the Taj Mahal. I only stayed for one day in Agra and thanks God I did. When fellow traveller's tell me, "Don't go there, it's so dirty, so nasty, so... just don't go..." I usually don't listen go to these places and love them. But everyone was so right about Agra. "Arrive in the morning on the train and book a train out later on in the evening. See the Taj Mahal then get the hell out of there." Was what people told me about it. I arrived at seven in the morning and was ready to leave by noon. It's THE biggest shit-hole I've ever been to, apart from Agra Fort or the Taj of course, also there's another something just outside the town which is apparently beautiful, but apart form these 3 things a town oozing with decaying litter, sweat, blood, western holidaymakers, petrol fumes, Taj Mahal memorabilia, shit tasting chai and food, stagnant water and pestering salesmen. If you like Agra, that's fine, this is just my opinion of the place, and it's not a very high one. I walked around in the intense heat from seven till noon then went to wait out nine hours in the train station for my train to Varanasi. I just couldn't stand Agra any longer. I ended up having to wait eleven hours, but time went reasonably quickly reading the auto-biography of Don Whillans - one of the pioneers in British rock-climbing history, and chatting away to these two American traveller's I met who were studying in Bangalore but now taking a quick 3 week trip around Northern India. To Varanasi anyways. When I fist stepped off the train I was literally nearly pulled between rickshaw drivers competing for a lowest price, it was the worst place for rickshaw drivers here, nearly unbleliveable. But when I got down to the town and into this holy town, it was incredible. In Hinduism Varanasi is one of the most sacred places on the Earth. If you die here then your soul is honored in the Samsara cycle. It's one of the most intense places I've ever been to, and a really incredible experience. I loved Varanasi and met some amazing people here. I'll tell you guys about my first day actually. I was walking around mesmerized I suppose by the tiny alleyways, about the width of two people, with scooters and cows roaming around. I walked down to the River Ganges or the Ganga as Indians know it and just was captured by this slow moving sacred place. As I was walking back to my hotel I was told to have a look at this Indian guys shop. I decided to just look and not buy. After I'd looked for a bit he said "sit down sir please" I did. Then he said "Sir are you smoking ganja?" I said "Well my friend it has been known." He smiled then said "come, come friend." His uncle took over watching his shop and he led me and his other mate to a Government Hash Shop. In Varanasi cannabis is illegal I think, but everyone smokes it there. It's smoked to Lord Shiva. I'll just give a bit of run-down on that comment as I imagine people are like 'what is he going on about?' According to Hinduism, there were three God's who created the wrold. Brahman, the sole creator, the past, Vishnu the maintainer of the world, the present and Shiva the destroyer of the world, therefore essentially our future. There are many interpretations of the story, but this is the one I was told from these guys in Varanasi. The story goes that one day Shiva was so angry he almost destroyed the world. But his wife suggested he tried smoking or eating this plant to calm him down. This plant was Marijuana, and it calms Shiva down from destroying the world. Apparently he smokes in a sort of like bong, called a 'chillum' which is packed with hash and tobacco, or he eats hash in the form of 'Bhang'. Bhang are the leaves of the plant soaked in a sort of liquid then rolled into a dark-green ball, which looks like resin but is squidgy. This is why people smoke it. It's not specifically in the religion to do it, but mostly holy men and young boys use this as their tool to get unbelievably baked everyday, in hour of Lord Shiva. And this is what these guys were on about having, bhang. I took some bhang, smoked a chillum and drank chai with these dudes, who do it everyday, after twenty minutes was feeling really 'nasha' (Hindi word for being stoned). We went to play cricket, which I had never done feeling like this, I just wanted to mong out and eat some crisps, but we played a fiercely competitive game of cricket down by the river Ganga. It was great game apart from not really knowing what the hell was going on. I bowled alright, but I knew I wouldn't be able to bat like this. I forced them to put me right down the order, and as the wickets tumbled I thought 'shit it's gonna be up to me isn't it.' And surely it was, I need 1 off 4 deliveries, and being the last man in I was our only hope. It's not much to ask, but in this state it's like 6 off 1 delivery. I missed the first two, with everyone crowding me shouting 'come on just hit the ball!' then the next delivery just managed to get a thick outside edge on it and push the winning single. A massive sigh of relief for me and the team, and one of the most pressurising moments in cricket I have ever experienced. I decided to sit the next one out. The next few days I walked around meeting people and seeing the burning ghats, (places where they burn the bodies, then they are thrown into the ganga)river ghats and temples of Shiva. I left Varanasi with a longing to one day return meet up with those guys, get nasha and have another game of intense cricket! I could write moments like this about everywhere, but for me this day really stood out. From Varanasi I worked my way up to the foothills of the Himalayas to rest and drink tea in the beautiful town of Darjeeling. I thought Darjeeling would be more interesting but it was so touristy and so misty so I never really got chance to gaze and eat breakfast at the mighty Kangchengzonda (3rd highest peak in the world, I think?) and the surrounding Himalayan range. Also the tea was good, but not the best which I was surprised about, I thought it would be amazing. It pissed it down the second day I was there and when the rain cleared I saw the Kangchengzonda range. Only for a minute or so, but it was incredible. Just searing blades of snow covered rock rising up and up. It was a magnificent spectacle and I now would love to go to Nepal. I finished reading Don Whillans' auto-biography in Darjeeling, funny co-incidence reading his adventures in the Himalayas when they were right there in front of me, and what an amazing life he had led. I recommend the book to anyone. From Darjeeling I went to Kolkata which I more or less fell in love with. I think it is my most favorite city so far in India. It is immensely over-populated but there is still such a sense of space, with big cricket fields, and large green open spaces. The British colonial architecture has really been kept in tact, and some buildings look exactly like you find in any small town or city in the UK. That Roman inspired Victorian structure. I really liked my time in Kolkata and would like to return one day. I went to Kalighat Temple there, that was an incredible experience. I saw a goat sacrificed, people shouting and crying at pictures of Kali - the wife of Shiva. It was a big day out and lot to take in! After Kolkata I caught a train to Puri, a beach side town in the state of Orissa just below Kolkata on the coast. In Puri I wanted to do two things, work on my rapidly fading tan and smoke the legal hash that they have there. I think Orissa is the only state in India where hash is legal and it's sold at two government ganja shops in Puri alone. And I did get high, and I did get sunburnt. It was great here. One day I hired a bike and cycled the 36km to a village called Konark to see the temples there. It turned out to be a great ride there, but back I had to fix the chain 8 times! And cycling back along the same road, it loses something. From Puri I headed to Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa and a very holy place. I was there for a day only before catching the train to Chennai. I sat in a small botanical garden, surrounded by these ancient temples reading Oscar Wilde's plays. 'This is how I spend my Monday' I thought. I got the train later on to Chennai and had my first flux of traveller's diarrhoea. It had to happen on the train didn't it. And to put the cherry on the cake I couldn't get a seat so had to share a twenty hour train journey with three other Indian blokes. I recovered after a few hours of running to train toilet and arrived in an incredibly humid Chennai. I caught a bus out of Chennai to Puducherry, a French colonial town and a beautiful town. It's like the nearest to France you can get whilst staying put in India. I'm headed to Mamallapuram in the next few days, then to Chennai for a couple of days before flying to Penang in Malaysia on May 5th. Exciting times ahead of me!

Thanks for reading guys, I really do appreciate it. Take care x

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