I know I should have posted far sooner, but with all the traveling about it was a little hard to find the time, in between all the fun, to complete more than a short mail to confirm I was alive. Now I have 3 hours for the Bus from Khajuraho to Satna to leave so I have time to send this mail.
We left on the 9th of May after the usual troubles at the airport with electronic tickets and searches of Schiphol airport for a Thai desk, which there isn't we could finally get on the Lufthanza flight to Frankfurt. Although I wonder if I actually get my Swiss miles for that...
Frankfurt airport is a lot better from last time I was there. I say a lot better I couldn't tell the difference, but as we only needed to transfer and had 2 hours to do it in, we didn't explore.
We flew in a 747-300 or -400, I forget, and watched Europe slowly disapear under the cloud cover. As Bangkok came closer and closer we felt more and more as if we were actually going. In the rush at the airport we hardly had time to realize that we were leaving to go just over 1/3 around the world.
Bangkok airport was hectic, althought the line for the visas was short and we rushed through and into the city. For those who are interested the bus to Khao San Road is Bus 59, which is easy to find and comes every 10-15 minutes, we ofcourse first sat for half an hour before we actually were able to find somebody who could tell us which bus we needed, instead for the cursory nods and blank smiles.
On Khao San it was about 1 or 2 pm when we arrived and stayed at Lek Guesthouse. We had a shower and went for some food. Our first task of getting the Indian visa would wait until the next day.
Naturally with all the adjustment to time differences we got up far too late the next day and took a Tuk-Tuk to the Indian Embassy, big mistake. We first got taken to a visa agent, which we didn't want and wanted to charge us 1500 Bhat for the priviledge of sorting out the visas. Then naturally the stupid suit shops and other things we had to endure before we actually got back to Khao San. As we were already late for the Embassy.
The next day we tried public transport again, which is not that bad as you might think, traveled on the bus to the metro station and on the elevated metro to Sukhumvit 23, where the Indian Embassy is. Or as we found out the consular office dedicated to Visa applications. Obviously we were to late, as the application has to be handed in before 12, so we did the same thing the next day at 9 in the morning. The same evening, the 13th, we got on a bus for Ko Phan Ngan.
Ko Phan Ngan is beautiful and as we found out that the dates for the fullmoon we had copied down for that day were wrong we ended up staying there for 13 days. We stayed in the Bongo, although the huts are now shalets with on suite bathrooms and A/Cs. All the huts have been torn down excepot for No. 1, which is the Hut I stayed in last time. The manager remembered my sisters boyfriend and said she remembered me and my sister too, although I wasn't sure if she was just saying that to be nice. The Fullmoon party was fun, but far too big.
We left on the 24th and arrived at 4 in the morning at the western bus station in Bangkok. We had to take the VIP bus which was to expensive, but we really really had to leave. We went straight to the Indian Consulate and picked up our visas. Which took about 5 hours.
After checking into Lek I went searching for cheap cheap tickets to Delhi and found them for only 15500 Bhat each with Indian Airlines. And after waiting on the 27th we finally left on the 28th for Delhi.
We arrived at Delhi and managed to get ripped off in the first 2 hours for a taxi from the Airport to Main Bazaar. Luckily we had an extra passenger in the taxi who could share the load so it ended up being only 150 Rupees each. Our hotel was great, the Royal Guest House, being the off season we got about 100 Rs. off the price.
The next day we aranged a car to take us from Delhi to Jaipur and Agra so we could quickly do the tourist thing and get on the the real traveling. It being the off season it meant we stayed in 3 star places for as little as 300-400 Rs. Although you must remember that it was about 48c so a little extra money for A/C was a small price to pay.
The driver, Vinod Kumar, was great and was able to get us cheap guides and good food. Although he could do little about the price differences for tourists and Indians in the Taj Mahal. (10 Rs. for Indians and 750 Rs. for tourists.) The Taj Mahal is beautiful and well worth the amount paid.
After Agra we went to Varanasi on the 3rd of June, which is a nice city, but as with all the other places you are constantly being hassled to come into shops and take rickshaws, as there are few other tourists for them to hassle. (; Although you soon grow used to it, it can be too much on some days to hear so many sad stories about how poor they are and how they need money for something and it being the off season that they can hardly scrape to Rupees together for a little food. But as there are just so many of them you just have to wonder which are the true stories and which are the fabrications. Our hotel manager in Varanasi, Rajesh, told us that it is about 99% fabrication.
In Varanasi we went for the obligatory boat on the Ganga in the morning to watch all the bathers, and on the way back from visiting the Ghats we saw a body floating face down. They don't burn pregnant women, Shadus, people who die from snake bites and cows, but rather tie a stone to the body and drop it in the Ganga. As bodies start to bloat when left in water they sometimes get free from their watery grave and float. It reminded me of the line in Stephen King's book It: "they all float down here, only the dead float up." (So it isn't an exact quote. (;)
Astrid took Hindi lessons and I found the Vedic Mathmatics book I wanted, which is not out of print as I though, and spend my time learning that. Varanasi is a huge University town and has, according to the guides, the 3rd largest university in the world after Oxford and Cambridge.
From Varanasi we left for Satna on the 9th, at the train station we met two nice people who also come from Amsterdam, although one is Belgian and the other is from Alkmaar in the Netherlands. Coincidently we shared a sleeping compartment in the train to Satna and traveled on to Khajuraho from there.
Khajuraho is beautiful, and has beautiful temples which, contrary to popular believe, only have few erotic sculptures. They are very good and those from the peak of the Chandela period, 950-1000 AD, are so good that the pattern on the sari is even carved into the sandstone.
Anyway, today we are leaving Khajuraho and traveling to Satna again and from there to Kahna Tiger Reserve, were according to the guide there is more chance to spot tigers in the hot season as they have to come to the watering holes to drink. Should be excellent shooting. (;
I will probably not have time to read this for the next week or so, but feel free to post comments.