Saturday, July 30, 2011


We sure can't escape em. Miss you, Krissy!! So last night we met up with our brother sister friends, Steve and Bethanny. They're from Edmonton, Canada, somewhere in the West, I'm told. They had some other friends with them, but for whatever reason when we showed up they bailed...hmmm. :) But we went out, had happy hour pizzas and beer. Upon reflection, this is only the 3rd time in 7 weeks we've gone out with other people. 1. Carl in Mumbai 2. Jaan in Varanassi and now Steve and Bethanny. I'm excited to move to Hong Kong and meet some friends!!!

Oh also exciting yesterday, I found real stinky cow cheese!!! So obviously picked up a bottle of wine. There seems to be an inverse relationship between wine and cheese on this trip. India = good wine, bad cheese (well just not REAL cheese),Nepal = great cheese, horrible wine. Here's hoping for HK.

Today we may go for a walk up to the World Peace Pagoda with Steve and Bethanny, then it's packing because 7am tomorrow is white water rafting!! Wooooohooooo!!!

Friday, July 29, 2011


Since trekking we've just been taking it slow and kicking it in Pokhara. We're still waiting to hear when we're going rafting; I guess tomorrow or the 1st. But who knows? No one tells us anything! It's gorgeous here with lots of Western/international food options and happy hours. Yes, happy hour. Oh how I've missed you. We found one happy hour at T'Hic T'Tak where it's 2 for 1 cocktails with imported salami and popcorn! These things haven't existed in my life in 2+ years! We went back for dinner last night and got this delicious fish/potato stone pot meal that was to die for. Definitely the best meal of the trip. I'm just excited I can eat again without being sick!

It wasn't sunny enough for paragliding so yesterday we rented bikes for the day and pedaled out to a cave and Devi's Falls. Of course the second we get there it starts to rain. Hard. The cave was pretty lame and 80% of it was closed due to monsoon, story of our trip. You walk down a few stairs to this plaster looking little cave, dripping water, to see a cow statue. Hmmm, then keep going down the real cave and see a temple. No offense to Hinduism, but been there, seen that like 500 times over in India. Next. We crossed the street in the pouring rain and went over to Devi's Falls. Apparently back in the day David (Devi in Nepali) fell into the falls and brought his girlfriend with him, never to be seen again. And you can tell why! This is a massive rush of water that pours over a cliff straight down into the Earth and disappears. I suppose it flows into an underground river. It was pretty impressive and we felt a part of it on account we were so wet.

We ran into this brother sister team the other day. They were the ones who suggested we go hiking sans guide, and we suggested they stay at our lovely hotel. When we ran into them again they had just returned from a yoga ashram. This is something I had wanted to do in India, but we never quite got around to it. They said it was phenomenal. This is embarrassing to say, but I haven't done yoga since I've been in Asia. There's something wrong with this; I used to do it all the time in DC. So, talking to Bethanny and Steve (he enjoyed it!) got me excited, and the fact that Paul is horrified at spending a whole day at a yoga ashram just adds to the excitement. We don't have time to do it here in Pokhara as we may have to leave for rafting at any moment, but I have emailed some places in Kathmandu and they've been most accommodating. Ideally we'll got for 2 days, Paul's pushing for 1, but he's being a good sport. I can't wait to see him try to sit cross legged for more than 2 minutes. You should see the poor guy at Korean restaurants when we have to sit on the floor- ha.

The schedule is pretty intense. You wake up at 5am for morning yoga/meditation. Then have breakfast,all vegan of course, do some Karma yoga which includes farming or picking rice or something- ha, and it goes on like this through the day when you finally retire at 8pm. I can't wait. Soul and body cleansing!

So today is a lazy day. We're on a quest for new books, so we're going to hit up as many hotels as we can to try to find some good ones. Then probably hit up the salami happy hour and call it a night. I don't think we've stayed up past 11 on this entire trip. I suppose good preparation for real life in HK, which begins 2 weeks to the day!!! Doesn't feel like we've been here for 7 weeks, although doesn't seem like I've been in Korea forever either...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Here's Hoping for Sun Tomorrow

"I want to fly like an eagle....this song was written about me." -Paul on paragliding. If it's sunny tomrrow we're jumping off a mountain with parachutes!!

If not so sunny, renting bikes and having a Nepalese Wish a Fish pot for lunch. Asa. Today we're finally back on the track to health. Apparently everyone that goes trekking ends up sick after; me with stomach, Paul with fevers and throat. In order to celebrate renewed health, and to promote it, because kimchi fixes everything, we went out for our Korean bbq lunch. IT WAS LEGIT!! Real Korean food in Nepal, who knew!? And the owner lives in Hannam, which is a 30 minute walk from my old (tear) apartment in Haebongcheon. Small world it tis.

Now it's happy hour. 2 for 1 cocktails, sausage, popcorn and wifi. Life is Good.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Walk Up The Woods

So as I mentioned in the previous post, Paul and I decided to do a 4-5day trek without a guide. The guides, you see, are quite expensive, and we thought it might be kind of awkward walking with some stranger for 4 days. In preparation for our trip we got all of our hiking permits (which took like 2 hours!) and then we hit the grocery. We got peanut butter, bread, granola bars, nuts, chocolate, all of the essentials for hiking. After this arduous process we were tired, so went back to the hotel to relax and shower. Well, evening rolled around and it began to rain. We didn't feel like venturing out to get maps and hit the ATM and figured we would do it in the morning in the town where the hike begins. There's got to be an ATM and hiking supply stores at the beginning of the trail, right?

The answer is no, there is nothing in Nayapul. You can buy duck eggs and a bottle of Jack, but no maps, no ATM. We assess our situation; 4,500 Rs. We were told you need about 1,000 Rs per day on the mountain. We thought that meant for both of us, turns out that's per person. Hm, so a 4 day trek would only leave us 500 Rs allowance, not a good situation to be in. What if it rains and we get stuck and need to stay extra days? We are also hugely underprepared. We didn't have backpacks (our hotel graciously held our packs while we were gone) we had our purses. We packed a long sleeve, some socks, food, and that was about it. What if we needed additionaly supplies at the top? Well the answer is go without, because we don't have enough money.

Day 1 start. It's absolutely gorgeous out. Sun is shining and the walk is beautiful. Our first obstacle, only 20 metres into the path and there's a river flowing through it. Hm, not to be detered we take off our shoes and walk through. As Im taking pictures of Paul wading the river we notice the bridge behind us. Oops. Two idiots go for a hike. Anyway, finally get going and it's a flat wide road that passes through charming villages where you can buy waters or have lunch. It goes for miles just through the valley, we're thinking "This is great, no mountain climbing."

I should back up. As we're signing in with the Ranger we ask about how far we can expect to go in a day (again 2 idiots go hiking). The ranger says to xxxx about a 4 hour hike. Hmm 4 hours, it's only 10 am what do we do the rest of the day? We ask if we can make it to the stop for day 2 in just one day, to which he replies, no impossible. But there's a guide behind us, for a Korean couple, and he says, "You're young and's 10am....1 hour for make it by 6pm to Ghorapani." Asa, we have ourselvesa challenge.

We arrive at the day 1 stop right at 12:30, have a peanut butter sandwich and continue on. This is where it starts to climb. Not only are you climbing up the mountain, you're walking up stairs. Millions and billions of stairs. I have never seen this many stairs in my whole life! We walked what must have been 4 million stairs when we passed someone and they assured us, the stairs continue all the way to Ghorapani. So 5 more hours of stairs?? YES. We stopped at a few guesthouses along the way for some water, which has a 9x mark up in the mountains, and who can blame them. This is totally unchartered territory. There is no way to get here but hike. I can't even imagine stocking these places, it's hard enough walking with my purse! Every place we stopped we told the owners that we were going to Ghorapani and we got the exact same response from each, "Oh, no, not today! You won't make it." Oh yes we will!

So climb on we did. Around 2pm it started raining. It rained and rained and you know what rain brings in the mountains in July? LEECHES!! No joke. I always thought they were kind of an urban legend. You can't go swimming there, you'll get leeches. Nope, they really do exist and Paul and I have at least 10 leech hickeys between us as proof. Walk, stop, pick off leeches, flick them from your shoes, walk. This went on for hours. 9 hours day 1. 18km, 16 of which were vertical up. But we made it to Ghorapani, right at 6 as the man predicted. We had the cutest little guest house, just us and old man, his wife and 2 grandkids. We got in took off all of our wet clothing, hung it by the oil can fire place, took a luke warm shower and put on fuzzy socks and long sleeves. It's cold 2km up in the mountains!!! We sat eating our noodles by the fire and then enjoyed some homemade Raksi- a clear booze made from millet. One night with dinner and breakfast (only Paul) cost over 1,000Rs. Hmm we're not going to make it 4 days. At this point it's raining and only getting wetter so we decide we want to book it off these mountains as soon as possible. You thought day 1 was impossible, well bring on day 2.

We awake after a pretty miserable night's sleep, totally sore, put on our semi-dry shoes and gear, and start out for Ghandruk. Again we're told this is not to be done in 1 day, but hey, we like a challenge. We took a brief detour in the morning. I should mention, the trail day 1 was in no way marked. I mean there's really no where to go but the follow the path in front of you, but if you happen to veer off, you're screwed. Day 2 there were flags spread intermittently throughout the path, but you could go hours without seeing a flag, person or guesthouse. What if you got hurt? I suppose this is why you bring a guide! Anyway, the scenery day 2 was beautiful. Youre on the top of these mountains in this thick mist. I'm sure it would be totally breathtaking if you could actually see out into the mountains you're there to see. But no, this is monsoon, so you can see about 15 ft in front of you. Periodically you'd hear a bell, then out of the mist antlers would appear and there'd be a pack of cows or ponies. That was kind of cool. Then you're out of the meadows and into the forest! It is by far the most beautiful place I have ever seen. The vegetation changes every hour or so; I felt like we hiked in 4 different countries! Meadows, to forest, to jungle, to white water waterfalls, ahh! And best of all, NO snakes!! Day 2 treking was much easier, mostly downhill. At one point we came accross a group of Koreans. We followed them for a few hours, stopped for lunch, then caught them again. The one girl in the back was SOOOO Korean. I guess she had just bought new Nikes and didn't want to get them muddy (ummm hello mountains in monsoon, everything's muddy) so every time she'd step in mud she'd give a little scream and wave her arms. haha Paul and I had a good time laughing at her, but at some point enough is enough and we left her in the dust.

6:30pm, another 9 hour day, and we arrived in Ghandruk! Hurrah!! Again found a sweet little guesthouse, the Shangri-la. Stripped down, had a HOT shower!! and had more noodles. The servings at these places are nuts, enough for 3 people. So we ordered one, I had a bit, but Paul mauled most of it. This kid eats more than anyone I have ever seen and with minimal exercise can't gain a pound. He lost a bunch of weight in Korea, and since we've been walking on this trip, despite the copious amounts of chowmein, he's still losing weight!! We finished the meal with a couple glasses of Raksi and called it a night.

Day 3 was the easy part. Down hill for 4 hours. Well you know what, downhill, down STAIRS, is tough. Our bodies were already in full on sore mode, and walking down 100s of stairs just added to the burn in our quads. But we kept on keeping on. And the last day, as we were out of the clouds, was breathtaking. The scenery was so beautiful and the sun was on full blast. 2pm and we finished the 4-5 day trek in 2.5 days. Go Team Under financed, Under prepared, but totally spandexed out!

Today we are more sore than ever but uber proud of ourselves! Just when we thought our bodies couldn't go any further, they did. We walked, climbed, jumped, fought leeches, and we're all the better for it! As for today we plan to eat and sit. There is a Korean restaurant in town so we're treating our selves to samgapsol (korean bbq!) for dinner.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trek decided-y

After some research today, Paul and I have decided to do the Poon Hill trek sans guide. It's a 4 to 5 day hike, we can leave our packs at our hotel, and there are guest houses and restaurants along the way!! Keep you fingers crossed no rain! We leave saturday am!!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


First off, India wouldn't let me leave that easy. After the nightmare million degree bus rides, I got sick. Dehli Belly finally caught me. As if that weren't enough we had a 5(turned out to be 6) hour bumpy bus ride in the morning after I'd been up sick all night. Fun times let me tell you. I am finally feeling better and don't get totally nausous every time I smell food. I was even able to get some pizza down for dinner last night!

Anyway, the ride, despite the stomach issues, was amazing! It had been raining the entire night, which, let's be honest, scared the crap out of us that our bus would be washed down the side of a mountain, but it wasn't. The rain caused hundreds and hundreds of waterfalls! We drove through the clouds through what looked to be how the world was before we settle it. When there were houses, they were all straw thatched with bamboo fences, kind of reminds you of ancient Ireland (on account that it's so green). It was really spectacular and we got our first glimpse at some of the rivers we could go rafting down; and boy water was moving!

Pokhara tunrs out to be totally different that I imagined it. It's a small city at the base of several mountains with a lake in the middle. It's hugely touristy though. If you go trekking in Nepal, this is where you start, so there are travel agencies, shops, hotels and foreign restaurants galore. And it's expensive. I'm talking 3-4x pricier than Tansen. We went out for pizzas and beers last night; 1 pizza, 3 beers, and it was $10!! We're used to $2 meals haha. My, how quickly your idea of expensive changes.

Tis a bit overcast now (it's only 8 am) and was raining most of the day yesterday, if this keeps up we're not sure if we'll go trekking. Trekking is difficult logistically too. Today we'll find out more, but from what we gather you need to hire a porter to carry your stuff (I'm not carrying my 14kg pack for miles!), or send your stuff via truck to your end destination, hmm, then what do we carry?? A purse? Then you need to hire a guide, pay for guesthouses and food along the way. Apparently this can get quite pricey. So we'll see. I feel like you can't go to Nepal and not do a trek though!

There are a ton of Korean restaurants here!!! Now that my stomach is better I think it's galbi tonight!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

India By The Numbers

52 hours spent on the train
5 states visited
2 World Heritage sights (Elephanta Island and the Taj Mahal)
780 photos taken
1 injury warrenting a hospital visit (don't cut avocados at 3am), but didnt
30+ hours spent on the bus
2 bottles of wine
2 pees on average per day...countless trips to the bathroom, however
3 nights spent in the bathroom
4.25 books finished (Lauren)
3 books (Paul)
2 shirts given away, ya know, to lighten the load
1 birthday celebrated
2 flights taken
1 anniversary celebrated (only fancy pants meal)
15 hotels stayed in
6 afternoons spent at pools
1 waterfall jumped off
1 hummus pita
5 pizzas, 2 of which were edible
4 = average days wearing the same outfit

Most Expensive/Shittiest Hotel = Hotel City Palace, Mumbai
Cheapest/Nicest (with a pool!) = Hotel Shree Palace, Pushkar
Best Meal = tie, hummus pita and fancy pants meal in Jodhpur
Best Indian Meal = Veg Jal Frizy in Calagute, Goa
Most Enjoyable City = Udaipur, Rajasthan
Coolest Fort = tie, Amer Fort, Jaipur, and Jodhpur Fort
Best Sight = Taj Mahal at sunrise
Most Dead People = Varanassi
Best Picture = Paul charming a cobra
Worst Walk = Seeing a cobra, Bundi Fort
Most Monkeys = Monkey Temple, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Best Travel Companion = Harry Potter on ipod....and Paul
Most Rain = Kerala

We finally made it to Nepal! 13 year old girl moment: OMG!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE Nepal. Ok. But really, Nepal is beautiful! After 2 hellacious bus rides yesterday, we are in Tansen. Tansen is a mountain top village, pretty untainted by tourists. We have a lovely hotel, with a lovely balcony and unlike India, there's booze on every corner! ha. The temperature is just perfect, probably mid to high 70s, and the mountains are GREEN.

Flashback to the bus. Bus 1 to the border was supposed to take 2.5 hours; it took 5. And it was approximately 3 billion degrees, no AC of course. Then from the border, which is super lax, we took a bus another 2 hours to go about 1km. We went, stopped for 30 mintutes, moved 2 feet and stopped for 30 minutes. Again, this is super fun and added bonus, heat stroke. Little did we know, we had the most perilous/extradinarily beautiful ride ahead of us. The last 2 hours and we were in another world. Our minu bus drove through windy mountain roads, no guardrails, and surrounded by waterfalls, rivers and the most lush greenery! It was worth the wait.

Tomorrow we're taking a 5 (hopefully) hour bus on the same amazing "highway" up to Pokara, where we plan to spend 1 week trekking and 1 week relaxing by the lake.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me!

Ew, today I'm 27. No longer in the mid-20s, now in the late-20s. Hm. And what's really annoying is every time we go to book a train ticket they ask our ages (why they require it I don't know) and now it says:

Paul Fiehler 25
Lauren McPhate 27

No bueno.

Ok, I'm over it. We arrived in HOT HOT HOT Varanassi after a wonderful overnight train. We met a new German friend, Yen, and played cards on the train until we all fell blissfully asleep. We all decided on the same hostel and we've been doing some boat trips with him.

Yesterday, Paul and I walked all over Varanassi. This place is India full-on. Exactly how you picture India to be; hot, crowded, pushy, shops, and yes, dead bodies. As we're walking through the maze of streets [Did you know Varanassi is one of the oldest cities in the world?] we decide to go take a peek at the Ganges. We see stacks of wood in the streets, thought nothing of it, approached the river and saw fires on the banks, thought nothing of it, then heard a woman grieving. Like hysterical on her knees grieving. It clicked. We stumbled upon the cremation ghat. There were probably 4 or 5 bodies being burned and one stack of wood with a man being prepared to burn; the one the woman was grieving. A man approached us and gave us a quick run down. White burial cloth = young man or young woman. Orange indicates old man/woman. Pregnant woman, cows, unmarried people, children under 10, and poor people don't get cremated, they are brought to the middle of the river and tossed in. Cremations don't come cheap. You need to buy 300kgs worth of wood per person and we were told that's about 20,000Rs (~$450). The burning takes between 3 and 4 hours, then the family all goes home. The men in the family have to shave their heads, although Ive seen some bald women too, so maybe they do too. The family all eat one meal a day for 13 days, and only after dark. Then they have a huge celebration.

It felt totally invasive to stand there and watch while this woman unravelled. This morning we took a 5:30am boat ride up the Ganges where thousands of Hindus are bathing in the holy waters. Again, this seems like a total intrusion, but most smiled and posed for the cameras. Also on this boat ride we saw 3 floating bodies. Our boat guide told us they had washed down in the current and often times get stuck in docked boats. We saw a floating cow too. Can you imagine going for your morning boat ride and finding 2 people stuck on your anchor line?? I guess living here you expect it!

The city itself is just bubbling with excitement and life. There are thousands and thousands of shops, selling everything from jewelry, to clothes, to chickens (which is weird because Hindus are supposed to be vegetarians). Less cows than other places, but more flies for sure! And the heat. This is by far the hottest place we've been. Because of the heat and amount of people, the elctricity often goes out! We were tryng to cool off in the room yesterday afternoon and read, when it shut off for like 3 hours. Everyone just goes up to the roof and hangs.

As we walked through one of many markets yesterday we found a man selling paneer (uncurdled cheese- kind of like tofu) on the street. It's my birthday and I want cheese. So street cheese it was! Street cheese and Indian wine, which was really good, on the roof at sunset. Was quite lovely. Then we were joined by Yen who had spent the afternoon lost. ha poor guy took rickshaw after rickshaw trying to find our hotel, which incidentally doesn't have AC! It's a waste of money for AC as the power goes out so often. But,yeah, this place is a maze!!

Today was the morning boat ride and we'll do one at sunset today when there's a huge Hindu ceremony going on. Tomorrow we're doing a 4 hour tour of temples around the city and then Sunday we're off to Nepal. Well en route. We just started looking at Nepal and WOW!!! we have so much to look forward to! Tentative plan as of breakfast today (which was awesome; eggplant, egg, potato and tomato salad!):

Bus to Tansen from India. Tansen is supposed to be a tourist free lovely little spot.

Bus to Pokara where there's a beautiful lake. From here we'd like to do a week trekking through the mountains, but we're unsure if we'll be able to due to the monsoon.

Then bus to Mugling where we're going to white water raft for 3 days to the Chitwan National Park.

At Chitawan Park we'll ride elephants through the park to see rhinos and sloth bears!

Then it's off to Kathmandu!

Yey sloth bears!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Snakes and Waterfalls

But luckily not together.

After Paul started feeling better we walked up to the old city wall and bought tickets to the fort. We we instructed to walk past the palace up a meandering, overgrown, rock path until we stumble upon it. Stumble I did. Just walking along the scenic path, minding my own business, observing the beauty of the unkempt 14th century wall to my right, when what did I see that ruined the whole trip? A huge, black, slithering beast! I immediately turn around, "Snake, snake snake snake, huge black, snake." I get a ssafe distance back and Paul wants to investigate. I'm shaking uncontrollable wondering where his little (or not so little) friends are hiding. Alas, I think I scared it away and Paul was left sans snake sighting. Obviously we ain't going to the fort now, so we turn back to the palace. I explain the the ticket man what we just saw and his response, "How big? Black? Oh, very bad. Bad, yes. Cobra." Cobra!! And it's not in a basket, ahhhhhh. The he explained, "Sometimes 1,000 years old. That big, only 500. Very poisonous. Danger, yes." It was for sure the biggest snake I have ever seen without a glass partition or carnival man holding it. Blehhhhhhh. Cobra, you just ruined nature for me. The man saw our predicament and let us into the palace for free where we enjoyed a nice, snake free, tour. I don't think they get many visitors. At dinner, which again, wasn't very good, the chef/owner/bus ticket/stoned man informed us that seeing a cobra was good luck. Well, I'm still alive so I suppose that's lucky. Paul saw a scorpion shell in the bathroom, so we're calling that luck too, oh and when I picked up my computer from charging there was bird poop on it. We're up to here with luck!

This morning we woke up, had our first good meal (hummus!!) and took an hour long auto out to a waterfall. Along the way we passed through beautiful stone/sod villages, farms and stopped at a small home for a chai. Then we arrive at the falls. As we're walking to the descent a family offered us fried banana fritters and of course everyone wanted their photo taken. We went into the temple, offered up some flowers, got some candies, then hit the water. Our auto driver and his son were amazing. They tried to tell us all about where we were and themselves and then showed us how where to go, watched our stuff, and the 16 year old played photographer for Paul and I as we swmm and cliff jumped. All this after they fed us a samosa. They work hard for that tip here. As we're leaving the water a group of men approach and want their picture taken. And again. And again. And all of the suddent there's a hand on my leg, my arm, my butt!! So Paul grabbed me and we shooed out of that mess. They followed us the whole way out, "Just one more picture, please." NOOOOOOOO. You touchy the hiney.

It was really beautiful and amazing to jump out of a waterfall! Now we're heading out to the train station for our 12 hour over night ride to Agra!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

No doubt....

...the monsoon has found us again!! It's 2 weeks early and we're still getting rained on. We checked out of our hotel, had breakfast, walked, finally found a pool, swam for 30 minutes and then it struck. Buckets of rain, thunder, lightening, the whole deal. It finally ended, we had our favorite Paneer Kebab with a game of Uno and were on our merry little way to Bundi.

The bus was amazing. Got on, had what's essentially a large coffin of a seat, laid down with Harry Potter on the ipod and were out! No sooner had we closed our eyes than someone was banging on our coffin door telling us we 5:30am.

Bundi's been quite nice. Small, and still pre-tourist season so it's pretty abandoned. We rented bikes yesterday which was awesome. I hadn't been biking in ages, and my butt can vouch for that today. For dinner we hit up Tom & Jerry's which promised WiFi. They didn't have it. Tried to get a veg burger. Didn't have it. Mixed curry. Nope. Cream pasta. Uh nah. Finally the owner confessed they had just opened the restaurant the day before for the season and all they had were pizza and tomato pasta. Fine, one of each. Bad idea. They were clearly both made with processed canned crap, didn't taste good, and as it turns out, induced Paul's first Indian illness. He spent the night in the bathroom. I spent the night under the mosquito net.

After some dry chapati and bananas for breakfast (I went on a breakfast bike ride for ingredients!) he's on the way to recovery. But yeah, this whole lack of tourist thing is tough on our stomachs. Tried to get muselli curd w/ fruit for lunch. Muselli=300 year old cornflakes. Paul got veg noodles=rameyon with some potato. Hopefully dinner pans out better.

Today we'll hit the fort here, did I mention it rained all morning? Sunny now, then tomorrow a local waterfall we can swim under then it's a 5pm 12 hour train ride to Agra!

Agra, although we've heard shady, has several restaurants where we believe we can find sushi and Korean. God willing.

PS my birthday is in less than a week. Hold on to your diamonds and chocolate...forecasted location; Varanassi.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

No chicken pizza, but....

...the chicken and veg sandwiches were quite tasty. Octopussy was mildly entertaining, but the best part of it was seeing the changes between 1970 Udaipur and 2011 Udaipur. In one word, none. haha It looked exactly the same even down to the auto rickshaws.

Our cooking class was funny. The guy was actually around at 10 am (ish) and we went up to the kitchen and cooked our little hearts out. His English was pretty minimal but he was a funny guy; always dancing and saying who knows what in Hindi. We made Chicken Masala, Aubengine Alloo (eggplant and potato curry), Dhal Fry (lentils), Chapati (wheat tortilla), and rice. It was quite good and a nice way to spend the morning.

We love Udaipur. There's no pressure to do anything, so we kind of lull around and just relax. After the cooking class we went to out airy room and just read for a few hours. Then felt lazy so head out and toured to the City Palace, which was beautiful, followed by our afternoon ice cream. Then came the shadiness. We've been walking to this far away Wine Shop to pick up beers. It's a nice walk and it's near our ice cream guy. BUT NO MORE!! Firstly, we found one like 2 blocks from our hotel, but more importantly I'm pretty sure they stole $40 from us. The 2 times we went there, they'd quote a price, we'd hand over a 500 Rs bill, and they'd stand there saying, "No we said 300 Rs, 300 Rs!" No understanding we look and they're holding a 100 RS note. Us not really paying attention figured we handed over the wrong bill and appologize and give over more money. The second time, when I paid, I knew I had a 500 note in my wallet. I keep searching and searching after this happened and couldnt find it. Finally today we pieced the whole thing together. They were counting on our befuddlement and took advantage. Those bastards! 500Rs is like $10. And they did it twice and charged us on top of it. We've been had.

In a happier story, we haven't been hassled here and are still really enjoying Udaipur. Tomorrow at 10 pm we're taking a 7 hour overnight bus (what are we masochists?) to Bhundi. We have a double sleeper, so hopefully we'll sleep the entire way...and not puke :) Since the bus isn't until 10 pm, we'll check out of out hotel (if we can ever find management. We haven't seen them since we checked in really) and spend the afternoon at a hotel pool.

Bhundi is supposed to be a lovely town and it happens to fall exactly 1/2 between here and Agra (Taj Mahal town). There's a lake with crocodiles and other random stuff. We need to consult LP again for more details.

But, yeah, life's good. We had lunch at a restaurant today that serves Korean food! I miss Korea already. It's definitely weird to think we're not going back.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Udaipur love

We set out of Puskhar on a long, hot, bumpy 5 hour bus ride to Jodhpur. Arrived tired, took an auto to a hotel we found in LP. Wow. This rickshaw went up these tiny narrow streets where we;'re fighting pedestrians, motorbikes, other autos, small cars, dogs and a shit ton of cows. I have never seen so many in my life! The Cosy Guest House was super cute and had wifi!

Jodhpur was a beautiful city; all the buildings are painted indigo (The Blue City) because, we learned on our audio tour of the fort, it keeps the buildings cool and deters mosquitoes. The fort was breathtaking. It's a huge structure on the top of a mountain over looking the entire city. The tour was amazing; lots of swords, cool rooms, even a live musical performance. For our one year anniversary we went to a wonderful, expensive (~$20!! That's 3 nights in a hotel! ha) rooftop dinner at Indique. It definitely had the best views of the city; you could see the fort, the clock tower, the palace and a ghat. After dinner and we bought wine!!!! I had't had wine since Korea! We chilled it and enjoyed it with a Cadbury chocolate on the roof of our hotel. Bliss. But, alas, the city was crowded. And narrow. And really really hilly. After 2 days we figured we had seen enough.

Sunday at 7:30 am we boarded a "deluxe" bus. Don't be fooled, there is nothing spectacular about this bus except the fact we had our own seats. And above the seats were sleeper seats; think luggage racks made for people. No AC, only open windows. Oh let me share something fun about open windows on old run down buses that drive down bumpy countryside roads; they let puke in. I'm not joking, no less than 4 people puked out the bus windows mid-trip. 2 of which splattered onto my face. Seriously. EW! Half way through this and I thought I was going to lose it. 7 hours later and we arrived, thank god, in Udaipur.

So I said before Pushkar was our favorite, well, Udaipur pushes it to second. This place is magical! Super beautiful, no annoyances, and Western/Indian fusion. We've even seen a few places that have Korean food ("No kimchi now, wait til season starts.").

Last night we sat atop our rooftop, over looking the lake. Spectacular at sunset! Then right around dusk the bats came. I'm talking hundreds of thousands of giant bats! Paul and I sat awestruck for an hour as the bats came rushing by! They leave from the South and fly into the mountains for the night! I can't wait to watch and take pictures tonight. Not too long after and the fireworks show began! Apparently it's every night and in high season goes on for an hour!

Our hotel owner somehow talked us into cooking lessons at our hotel, "You cook and then eat it." We agreed last night for today at 2:30. Saw the owner this morning and confirmed. Come 2:30 and the cook is passed out in his room. Another manager wakes him up, "Now, not a good time. 7 a good time. 10am tomorrow a good time." Wait we didn't even want to do this class and now you're bailing on us!? WTF! Tomorrow at 10am it is. Oh and we went in the kitchen to look for him and saw the raw chicken, in a plastic bag, on the counter. It's 35 degrees here! So if you don't hear from me for a few days, blame salmonella.

Tonight we're heading over to the Namaste hotel for a free showing of Octopussy. Apparently it was filmed right here on the lake, so almost all of the hotels have a show. Movie and chicken pizza, Asa! We're not leaving this place!!

Happy 4th of July. America!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

1 year...

...ago today, I met Paul Fiehler. Happy 1 year, babyface.


In Pushkar (our favorite yet) we swam in the pool, ate hummus and pizza, lounged and life was good. And then it got great. We were beckoned off the street by Kalu, "Camel safari?" Why, yes, certainly. After looking through his pictures and guest comments we decided this was the trip for us. Flash forward to the next day 4 pm, and we meet our trek associate, Arian from Australia. Super nice guy, 23, here for a school/work assignment orignially and was now traveling by himself. We walk with our 2 guides to our three camels down the street. Camels are big! Paul takes the camel with no guide and Arian and I both mount our camels and are hoisted 6 feet in the air. If youve never seen a camel get up or down, youtube it, it's quite the scene. We walked for 1.5 hours through desert, mountains and groves, then took a respite in the desert sands. The locals came out and played a who-knows-what while his daughters danced. It was truely a magical experience to watch. The we rode another 1/5 horus to Kalu's house. On the way we passed wild peacocks, the usual goats/cows/dogs, small villages ("ello!"), and finally rode into his drive way where we're greated by his entire family with a hot chai with fresh goat's milk. We actually saw them milk the goat and put it in the chai, delish!

An hour or so later 2 Israeli guests joined us. The men sat outside and chatted and the girls got to look upon the kitchen while Kalu's wife (of 5 months!) and mother cooked up an amazing homemade dinner. They made chapati (kind of a wheat tortilla), aloo (potato curry), rice, and dhal (lentil curry). We all ate together in the darkness with our hands...let me be specific, our right hands. I'm still trying to get the hang of this; it's usually 2 parts mouth, 1 part ground. Then after we washed up we head up to the roof where the camel trekers slept under the stars. Kalu came up with his 2 brothers and a drum and serenaded us to sleep. Well most of us. I was up listening to the neighbors bollywood soundracks and barking dogs, but regardless was a totally magical evening. The next am, we wake up, drink some chai, have bananas and sweet parantha (chapati fried in ghee/butter) and rode our camels back to town.

It was truely the best best best thing we've done so far. We met an amazing family, new friends, and had an unforgettable experience. We hopped on a 5 hour bus the next day to Jodhpur. More on that later...