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Saturday, November 15, 2003

Crossing the Border
Kathmandu, Nepal

Like we mentioned earlier, we faced our departure from India with reluctance and relief. Now that we're in Kathmandu and we're surrounded by hundreds of tourists as well as a fair bit of pollution and city grime, I'm wistfully thinking of our relaxing times at Mt. Abu and Keoladeo and Panna National Parks! Not to worry, we will be exploring the better side of Kathmandu tomorrow, and will be heading out into the Kathmandu Valley tomorrow for some walks, so I'm sure we'll be enjoying some peace and quiet soon enough.

We met up with Ray, Raj, and Gabby this morning, which was a fun reunion. I just wanted to add a few notes to Jen's about our drive from Varanasi to here. We paid a lot to get a car and driver to take us to Kathmandu, even with sharing the costs with our Scottish/Irish friends Simo and Ann, but it was definitely worth it. I could not imagine how much longer and painful the 19 hour drive would have been in either an Indian or Nepali bus, of which we passed many on the way here.

The border town of Sunauli is not much to look at; we're glad we didn't have to stay here overnight, which many people do due to the bus connections. Crossing into Nepal, we were immediately met by armed security checkpoints where soldiers weilding very large automatic guns peered into our vehicle to check things out. Of course we stand out sorely as tourists, and we were invariably waved on with a silet jerk of the patrol's head. On the way though, several times we saw pickup trucks and army vehicles patrolling the streets; the whole Maoist rebellion seems to be keeping the Nepalese army pretty busy.

The really tortuous part of the trip was the stretch of road going from Chitwan to the main Pokara-Kathmandu highway. In July of this year, torrential rainfalls caused hundreds of rockslides to severely damage the road, making it near impassable. We think other than the roads in northern Kenya, this was the worst stretch of "highway" we've ever been on. We didn't think we'd ever have to off-road on a highway, but boy were we glad we were in a 4x4 vehicle yesterday. We passed several UN vehicles and ambulances going the other direction; we're not really sure where they were headed. The scenery was pretty spectacular though, notwithstanding the large scars running down the mountainsides from the numerous landslides.

The final ascent up to the top of the Kathmandu Valley was a painful crawl, due to the massive traffic jam of lorries, busses, and other highway traffic. There was a final security checkpoint at the top of the hill, and they were certainly taking their sweet time up there. It was funny to see people jumping out of their trucks and busses every time they stopped to put tire chocks behind the wheels to stop the vehicles from sliding backwards on the slope... we were wondering, "How often to vehicles slide backwards down these roads anyway?"

Nevertheless, we've made it to the Kathmandu Guesthouse, and are in one piece. Once again, we have to adjust our minds a bit as we transition from one country to another; we're looking forward to not having to plan things for a bit, as the tour leader will be taking care of most of the details. We've uploaded two India pages now, so definitely check them out when you can. The next upload of pictures/pages might have to wait after our visits to Nepal and Bhutan, so it could be a while after this one!

Friday, November 14, 2003

Khajuraho to Varanasi and beyond...
Kathmandu, Nepal

We're just about to wrap up our three week visit to India, and it's a rather odd feeling. We feel like we've only scratched the surface of this sub-continent, having only really tasted Rajasthan, and the more popular sites between there and Varanasi. One day, we want to visit Rishikesh, Goa, Kerala (thanks for the recommendations, Ravi and Rithika!), Sikkim, Calcutta, Leh, Darjeeling, Mysore... the list goes on and on. At the same time, we're feeling vaguely relieved to be getting a respite (hopefully) from the touts and having to be on guard all the time.

I think we've actually developed a bit of a hard edge from the last three weeks, which we'll need to watch for, else some hapless vendor in Thailand or New Zealand will get his head bitten off by us!

If you haven't read the previous posting yet, you should or else this will give away the ending to the previous story. We were about to have dinner with our friend Mukesh in Khajuraho on Sunday, the 9th of November, and were going to find out if he had any ulterior motive or not. Dinner at his tiny farmhouse was wonderful, although it was only with him, his sister, and cousin; their parents were still at work. They all lived in a farm house with 2 rooms; one for them, one for the animals. In that one room, they ate and slept (all six of them).

His sister, Veedya, cooked many delicious chapati, and rice, while Mukesh himself made the tomato potato curry. Very yummy! We brought a pineapple and oranges with us, so had oranges for dessert. Before we left, Mukesh and his sister gave us an old silver box that belonged to his grandmother. After trying to refuse politely several times, we finally accepted it and will always remember that warm evening at his house.

In the morning, we woke up early and left at 5am in a jeep. Boy, was it cold!! The driver drove quite fast as there were no other cars on the road (he didn't have to use his horn at all!). We stopped for chai, about 1km away from the Panna Tiger Reserve as it was still early. It was cozy sitting around a charcoal burner warming up, while sipping freshly made tea. At 6:30am, the park gates opened, and along with 4 other jeeps (2-4 tourists in each), we drove into the park with hopes of spotting a tiger.

Along the way, we spotted several peacocks. Then quite suddenly, about 15 minutes into the park, we heard a very strange sound. Our guide (we had to get one from the gate) told us that the sound is the alarm call by a deer, that a tiger is nearby. We saw a female sambar deer staring at us not too far away. Just a few seconds later, our guide gave a cry and pointed to the tiger. Sure enough, we can see the striped mammal moving through the tall grass. It was an exciting moment as our driver reversed the jeep back down the road towards the tiger.

There was a second jeep there, and they didn't see the animal at first. Of course, as soon as they saw it, they were estactic as well. We watched the beautiful animal as he crossed the road ahead of us, then disappeared into the forest. A man on a young elepant (we had past them on the way into the park) came galloping (the elephant, that is) down the road past us, and into the forest looking for the tiger.

We spent about an hour driving through the park, watching spotted deers, birds and spiders before stopping for a quick look at the Ken River (which is quite nice, especially for India) where crocodiles reside. Didn't see any crocodiles, but the call came that the tiger was localized (i.e. surrounded by 3 elephants so it didn't have anywhere else to go). Everyone jumped back into their jeeps and drove at top speeds down the road.

It turns out that for 300rs per person, you can get a ride on an elephant to get up close to the tiger. Winston went, and I took pictures of him riding an elephant. That was a pretty old looking elephant, judging by its tusk. I'll let him describe actually seeing the tiger since I only saw it from a distance. It is a pretty cat, that's for sure. After that, we left the park (they close at 10am) and gave a ride to the guides who live close by. Our next stop was to see a waterfall (part of Panna TR) and then finally a longer stop for brunch on a tree house overlooking the Ken River.

[Winston here: The elephant ride was pretty awesome, the big beast just lumbered along like NOTHING was in his way, which was pretty much the case. Whenever he encountered a tree he didn't want to walk around, he simply tore it down, which was painful to see in the sense that you knew the elephant was doing that just so you could see a tiger, but was still really impressive nonetheless. The tiger was located at the bottom of an enbankment surrounded by four domestic elephants who were being ridden by park employees. They weren't that close to the tiger, but it obviously knew that they were there, seeing as it was sitting pretty placidly among all the greenery. They took the elephant we were on pretty close up to the tiger (which was great, since I only had my 50 prime lens) to about six meters away. They only kept us there for about a minute, which was enough for me to squeeze off about a dozen shots of the tiger. You can see the pictures for yourself on "India - Page Two". It was a pretty incredible experience, perhaps even once in a lifetime. Ok, back to Jen...]

We were back in town by noon, after driving through an old village followed by lots of honking at cars and bicycles on the road. It seems that drivers in India have to keep telling people that they are there, regardless of the situation. Weird. One gets a headache after a while. We attempted many times to get online while in Khajuharo, but the power was either out, or the phone lines not working. It was probably the most challenging of all internet access on this trip.

We were planning to watch the Sound and Light show at the temples, but was given the wrong start time by one of the guides. So when we showed up, the show was already half way through, and the doormen would not let us enter to catch the last bit. It was very disappointing as we had looked forward to it, but since we were leaving the following day, it was our last change.

We had arranged to have dinner with Mukesh at Mediterranean, a pretty good Italian restaurant. It was nice to see a decent selection of pastas and pizzas. We ordered some food and all shared. Mukesh gave me a pair of earrings, a gift from his mother. It was impossible to refuse, so I accepted them, and gave him my silver heart earrings to give to his mother. He tried to refuse, but finally accepted them since we told him that it would be rude if he didn't. Right at the end of dinner, after we paid the bill, he put in a request for us to help him with his school fees (which we expected).

It was a bit awkward, but eventually, he said that we better forget the whole thing and act as if he didn't ask. We did tell him that we would rather not give him any, as we treasured his friendship and would like to continue our relationship. He felt very uncomfortable, and we thought that his parents may have asked him to ask for our help. He was a nice kid though.

We had an early night as we had to get up early again the next morning. We were out the door by 6:30am (we had to unlock the gate ourselves as the doorman was sound asleep on the floor) to catch the early morning sun and peace at the main group of temples. The light was definitely very good, and Winston was quite happy taking over 100 pictures. The temples were interesting, and impressive. Of course, we looked for the erotic sculptures as they were the reason people came to Khajuharo. Sure enough, we did see several very unimaginable positions.. hehe. I'm sure Winston will post some on the website for you to see.

We bumped into Mukesh on the way back to the hotel. A little boy was following us (turns out to be a boy from his village) and told us that Mukesh had been sad all night and this morning. We told him not to worry, and he was fine after that. He is a pretty good kid.

We arrived at the airport early enough to wait for our Jet Airlines flight to Varanasi. The flight was quite full; the security process here is the strictest yet. Not only does every piece of hand luggage gets tagged (after security clearance), so did my money belt, which I wore beneath my pants, after I was hand searched by a woman. Then each tag had to be hand signed by an officer, otherwise you could not board the plane. Before actually getting on the plane, we were again strip search, and our bags reopened for a final check. No wonder you had to show up more than an hour before you flight, with the level of security checks here. Oh, and spare batteries were not allowed in your hand baggage, so they took my 2 AAA away from me; I did get them back when we arrived in Varanasi.

We shared a taxi to the Assi Ghat with a couple from Ireland. The ride from the airport took about 45 minutes, and the roads in town are in all sorts of directions that none of us could figure out where we were. We did finally arrive at our destination so that was alright. We had called the Ganges View Hotel a couple of nights ago to make reservations. The reviews in several guidebooks and websites were quite good, so we thought we would try it out.

Neither of us were prepared for the beautiful room that was to be ours for the next 2 nights; there was a sitting room, before the bedroom, and attached bath. The floors were all in black and white marble, the furniture were in dark wood, lovely lamps, ceiling fans and candlesticks, stained glass doors and windows, and paintings of flowers, animals and ladies all over. It was quite exquisite. We agreed with one of the guidebook which said 'live like a maharaja here...'. We were on the upper floor of the building, walking straight out into the terrace with a view of the Ganges River (hence its name) and several seating areas.

Dinner was also a truly wonderful experience; we ended up eating 3 dinners here until we had to leave. All the guests sit down at the same time, at tables set with table cloth, fresh flowers, candlelight and formal settings. The food itself was buffet style, but there was a great selection each evening and everything tasted great! We commented several times that this was one of the best food we've ever had in India.

At the hotel, we met Mr. Matsumoto, who is a professional photographer and writer. He has visited Ganges View several times and have published books about the hotel, as well as buddhism throughout Asia. He has even travelled through China over a period of 250 days, visiting some 103 villages. Wow! We saw some of his books and his pictures truly are amazing. Of course, we were unable to read the text (in Japanese) though we were sure that they were interesting too. He told us lots of wonderful stories about other people he's met in Bhutan, Tibet, and other neat places.

Two other long term guests at the hotel were women from Switzerland. It was also great chatting with them; we day dreamed about what it would be like to spend 2 months at the Ganges View Hotel, with wonderful staff helping you out all the time, and great food. Ahh... The owner, Mr. Sharshank, is very cool. He's an expert on classical Indian music, and an overall Mr. Nice. We enjoyed chatting with him about previous guests, his hotel, and a ton of other stuff.

While in Varanasi, we spent a lot of time at the Internet Cafe next door. This cafe/travel agency is run by three brothers, and we ended up renting a vehicle and driver from them for our trip to Kathmandu. We really wanted to fly, as it is only a 1 hr flight, versus a 36 hour bus ride. However, the flights have been booked solid for a long time (I've been checking for the last 4 weeks) so we had to decide on a mode of transportation soon as we were meeting Ray, Gabby and Raj in Kathmandu on the 14th.

It turns out that another couple was also looking for a car to go to Pokhara (they had wanted to fly as well). We ended up (after looking at many other options) sharing a Toyota 4x4 with them to the border. It costs just a bit more than taking 2 separate cars (as we had originally booked), but this way we would have more space, get to chat and feel safer in numbers. Simo and Anne live in Sydney, though they are originally from Ireland/Scotland. They have been travelling for 7 months now, and have spent 4 in South America so we had a great time exchanging stories and getting tips from them for our trip there.

We left Varanasi at 11pm last night and arrived in Kathmandu at 6:30pm! Yup, it was a very long travel day. Leaving India wasn't too bad; the roads were quite bad in many places and we were thankful for the big car. I crawled up in the back area (we folded down one of the seats) using the seat and backpacks as a bed. It was actually quite comfortable except for the bumps on the road. We took less than an hour to clear immigration at both borders, and dropped Anne and Simo off in Bhairawa (they went off looking for a flight to Pokhara - only 20 minute flight!).

We had a quick stop for lunch, but otherwise, we drove straight from 8am until 6:30pm. Along the way, the driver had to pay several toll fees, road tax (for an Indian vehicle) and municipal tax when we arrived in Kathmandu. Then there were the many security checks (luckily we were not in a public bus as everyone had to disembark/embark several times. There was a patch of highway (18km) which were badly damaged by landslides during the monsoon this July. We spent nearly 2 hours driving along this short distance. Boy, it was rough.

The scenary was beautiful though; quite a change from many of the places we saw in India. There were many farm terraces, huts, rivers, high mountains, interesting faces and colourful outfits to see. We also noticed the cleaner air (most of the time, except for the black smoke spewing out from trucks and the dirt from the landslides) and less garbage on the street.

Driving to our hotel, the Kathmandu Guest House, took a long time. The roads aren't quiet well defined here, and traffic seem to go in all directions. We met up with Raymond but have not yet found Gabby or Raj. The hotel told us that the Royal Nepal flight (due in at 4pm) has been delayed till 10pm. Well, it's past 10 now, so I'm going to go back to see what's up.

It's Winston's birthday tomorrow, so we started the celebration a bit early by going to a Japanese restaurant. The only sushi option they had is smoked salmon, but hey, it's still sushi!! We might go back again tomorrow. I enjoyed my chicken udon. Internet service here seems readily available and quite cheap, so we'll be back in the morning! Good night.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

About to Enter Nepal
Varanasi, India

We are a few hours from leaving Varanasi with a couple from Great Britain, on our way up to the border at Sunauli, then on to Kathmandu. We are aware of the recent Maoist activity and the robbing of foreign trekkers in eastern Nepal a few days ago. We have been following the activities of the Maoist rebels, and are aware that some tourists have been "taxed" while on their treks, but no serious harm has been inflicted upon trekkers, and the main road to Kathmandu is considered quite safe.

We anticipate reaching Kathmandu in the afternoon tomorrow, where we have reservations at the Kathmandu Guesthouse. We are hoping to meet Gabby, Ray, and Raj there soon after.

We've had an enlightening stay in India; Jen will post a final Indian blog hopefully shortly. See you in Nepal!

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Jodhpur, Pushkar, Bharatpur, Agra, and Khajuraho
Varanasi, India

It has been an eventful few days since our last blog, with many highlights and lots of travel in between. This is a pretty long posting, there's a lot to share!

We last left you in Jodhpur, which we felt was a good taste of a small Rajastan city. Staying in the Old Town was a highlight, as was seeing the well preserved Meherangarh Fort, home to many maharajas going back to the 15th century. Staying at Joshi's Cosy Guesthouse (e-mail: cosyguesthouse@yahoo.com) was also a lot of fun, and we again enjoyed chatting with other international travellers on the rooftop in the evenings. Good luck to Germans Sylvia and Anne, and Americans John and Ayala.

The next day, we set off in Joshi's jeep with two other guests of his, Mike and Amy of South San Francisco, and from 9am until 11pm that day, we didn't stop talking. We all seemed to have a lot in common, and talked straight through the drive to Pushkar, while walking through the Pushkar Camel Fair, and late until the evening at the V.K. Tourist Palace, our Pushkar guesthouse. They had done a lot of travelling themselves, and gave us a whole slew of recommendations for India, Nepal, Thailand and South America. Thanks guys!

Of course, the big draw for us that day was the infamous mela, Pushkar's Camel Fair, where for four days a year, the quiet backpacker town is transformed into a mayhem of religious pilgrims, camel, cattle and horse vendors and buyers, and many curious tourists like us. We only got a taste of it since we were there for basically half a day, but that was enough, as there were tons of people in the streets making the atmosphere fun, but slightly stifling. Vibrant colours of women's sari's and holy men's outfits made for great snapshots, while the sight of thousands of camels, horses, and cows with their turbaned handlers in the ajoining fields made us feel like we had stepped into some ancient animal menangerie. Shops and stalls were filled with colourful merchandise, and we actually picked up a few small souvenirs, which we hadn't done for several weeks. There were monkeys hanging out near the main street, and one decided to grab Jen's skirt and bite her arm. No one was expecting it of course, though an Indian man ahead of her had just made hissing noises at it. Luckily it was a relatively gentle bite, she's not foaming at the mouth quite yet.

In the morning, we awoke (at 4:30am) to the sounds of singing women who were walking around Pushkar Lake for their pilgrimage; devout Hindus are apparently expected to take a dip in the waters at least once in their lifetime. Following them since I was already awake, I was led to a ghat by the side of the lake where I let a supposed brahmin (priest) do the whole Pushkar puja routine on me. This little ceremony involved some reading of Hindi scripture, scattering of flowers, and tying a red string (the Pushkar Passport) around my wrist. Of course, this was followed by a request for a $10 USD donation; after a bit of negotiation, I ended up giving him 20 rupees (about 45 cents).

After saying goodbye to Mike and Amy (we'll see you guys in Seattle!) and thanking Joshi at the bus station, we set off by bus for Bharatpur, passing through Jaipur. It was a long bus ride, albeit relatively uneventful. There was a large warning in one guidebook that stated: "You are more likely to die on an Indian bus than in any other way." This was cause for a bit of concern, but perhaps we've become a bit immune to the dangers of public transport in developing countries now, because the wild driving and many near-collisions we had really didn't seem to affect us. The driver would pull into the opposite lane to pass a slow lorry, and would eek back in just a few feet before the oncoming traffic could smash into us; we wouldn't even blink any more, we'd gotten so used to it. I'm not really sure this is a good thing,actually...

On the long nine hour bus commute from Pushkar to Bharatpur, I started reading William Dalrymple's "The Age of Kali", which turned out to be a fascinating peek into various aspects of Indian culture. Recommended to us by Mike and Amy, this book certainly provided a great deal of insight into the kinds of things we don't see as tourists, but we really ought to be aware of if we want a better understanding of the complexities that make up India. The author draws on his over ten years of living in India to put together several keen observations on sati, the caste system, Bihar anarchy, Bombay socialites, religious fanatacism, the India-Pakistan conflict, and a whole slew of other topics. His prose is easy to read, almost conversational, and the content is really thought provoking. I highly recommend reading this book; I'm definitely going to check out Dalrymple's other publications.

The reason to go to Bharatpur is to visit the famous Keoladeo National Park, which is supposedly one of the best bird sanctuaries in the world. Home to almost 400 different species of resident and migrating birds, we were really impressed by the one day that we spent in the park; I can only imagine how orthinologists would feel about being here (Dorothy, you and your husband will have to visit!). We saw all kinds of spoonbills, herons, storks and cormorants, although the rare Siberian crane apparently wouldn't arrive for another two or three weeks (there are only four pairs of them left). We rented bicycles, binoculars and a guidebook from our friendly guesthouse (Kiran Guesthouse), brought along a pack lunch, and had a really enjoyable day in the park, notwithstanding Jen's flat tire and getting lost a few times. Other highlights there included seeing an Indian jungle cat and a mid-sized rock python, and going on the sunrise and sunset boat rides to see the nesting places of the painted stork, cormorant and ibis.

The next day was a long one, but successful nonetheless; we woke up at 5am to catch the bus to Agra so we could be there in time for sunrise over the Taj Mahal. We had heard that Agra wasn't much of a town to spend much time in, and what we saw outside the scratched up bus windows pretty much confirmed that. Garbage was strewn everywhere, pigs and dogs fought each other for rights to root through the trash, and men urinated on the walls of buildings without giving much thought of privacy. To be honest, this description could be applied to several of the places we've seen in India so far, it's just that things looked to be slightly worse in Agra. I wouldn't say this is the place to visit if you're really keen on cleanliness. In fact, I am currently fighting off a sore throat that I'm quite sure is due to the polluted air we've been inhaling.

However, all this is briefly forgotten when you walk through entrance arch and see the Taj Mahal for the first time. Granted, everyone knows what it looks like and has seen it in pictures, but it's still pretty impressive, especially catching it with the sunrise light. We obediantly took the requisite photos like the good tourists we are, and took our time walking up to and around the tomb, enjoying the relative lack of tourists at that early hour. Details that we loved were the inlaid precious stones were cut so precisely to fit almost seemlessly into the white marble, the symmetry of the reflecting pool in front of the tomb, and the sad love story of why the Taj Mahal was built. I wouldn't say that it is more impressive than Giza's Pyramids or perhaps China's Great Wall, but it definitely is pretty incredible in its own right, and despite all the hype, it is certainly a "must-see" for any visitor to India.

Incidentally, most tourists in India visit the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Jaipur, Agra) for most of the time; by not entering Delhi and passing through Jaipur, our exposure to the Golden Triangle was all but the two hours we spent at the Taj Mahal in Agra. Perhaps on our next visit to India we'll visit those places, but as always, we had to make some tough itinerary decisions as we moved along. Incidentally, when and if we do come through Delhi, we'll be well prepared to deal with all the scams that we've heard so much about from travellers who have been led astray by con-men...easily three out of four people we've met who came into Delhi had a story about how the rickshaw drivers, crooked hoteliers, and other scam artists ripped them off with a variety of creative deceptions. It's too bad, because most people seemed to enter India on a pretty sour note because of this.

As we left the Taj Mahal around 9am to catch the train/bus down to Khajuraho, we couldn't help but notice the city haze start to become more visible as the sun rose, and the crowds of tourists from the first tour busses start to bottleneck at the entrance gate. We were glad we came when we did.

Our first encounter with India's famous train system (we really thought we'd be taking more trains than busses, but it hasn't worked out that way) proved to live up to our expectations, as we promptly got lost in the tumult of the station. In the confusion, we bought what we thought were regular second class tickets but turned out to be second class unreserved (third class), we were ALMOST scammed by the ticket guy who pretended to think that he hadn't given us our 50 RS change, and we actually got on to a more comfortable second class sleeper coach car, which we certainly didn't have reservations for. In the end, it all worked out fine, we squeezed into a berth designed for six but that could obviously fit eleven, and several hours later, we arrived in Jhansi, where we made a quick rickshaw connection to our local bus.

The rickshaw driver kept on telling us that it wasn't a luxury bus, and that it would be a long ride (we think he was trying to convince us to stay in Jhansi so he could get commission from a hotel), but again, I think we've become rather immune to the discomforts and dangers of using local bus services. This ride was no different, as at one point, the aisle was so packed that I had four men pushing against my body simultaneously, there were several people hanging on for dear life on the roof of the bus, there was so little space for our feet that my knee felt permanantly driven into the metal seat in front of us, and the driver obviously felt like the earth would stop rotating if he didn't toot his raucous horn every thirty seconds.

However, it was on this bus that we met a young 15-year old boy named Mukesh, who lived in Khajuraho, and was interested in talking to us. Of course, we were instantly on our guard (which is actually quite a shame, but it has become habit now unfortunately due to all the touts we've met in the last two weeks), and waited for the expected "let me show you my shop," or "I have good hotel for you." But it never came; he actually seemed to want to practice his English (which he spoke very well), and ended up inviting us for dinner to his house in the old village. We arranged to have dinner the next day, since we were pretty fatigued from our one-hour bus, four-hour train, then seven-hour bus ride day. We were planning to stay at the Marble Palace Hotel which turns out to be the one he was going to recommend to us (he even brought pictures of the rooms). I have to say I'm looking forward to dinner tonight with Mukesh's family; he's a bright kid and is mature beyond his years, and if there's a small catch at the end, I don't think I'd mind all that much. This remains to be seen however, so watch out for our next blog to see how this turns out!

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Need... More... Power...
Khajuraho, India

The last two times we tried to blog, halfway through our post, the electricity in the towns that we were in went out, wiping out everything we had halfway written! So now we've got the latest update on the laptop offline, and will hopefully upload that in the next few days.

Nevertheless, briefly before the power goes out again, we've had a hectic but fulfilling few days since our last posting in Jodhpur. We visited the camel fair in Pushkar, the fantastic bird sanctuary in Bharatpur, the Taj Mahal at Agra, and are now at the famous temples in Khajuraho. We'll be here for two more days, before heading up to Varanasi, and then figuring out how to get into Kathmandu to meet Gabby, Raj, and Ray on November 14.

We've had lots of Indian adventures so far, so check back here for a full update hopefully in a few days! And, knock on wood, we had no cases of the "Agra Aches", "Bombay Blues", or "Delhi Belly", so far, i.e. our digestive systems have been handling the food we've been consuming quite well! That alone is reason to celebrate, whoo hooo!!


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