Ah, trains and buses!

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November 19th 2007
Published: November 21st 2007
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On the way to KhajurahoOn the way to KhajurahoOn the way to Khajuraho

Decorated Holy Cow
Not much to tell really. In the last week, since leaving Varanasi, I spent around 55 hours on trains and buses, and that is excluding waiting times. The bus from Varanasi to Khajuraho left at 5AM, and arrived 16hrs later. Take in account that the roads are very bumpy, the air that inevitably hits your lungs is highly polluted, the day temperatures are around 30 degrees Celcius, the seats don't leave your body any room to move (even when I slightly opened my legs, my knees were pressing against the seat in front of me), and aside from the filled seats, around 25 people are standing in between the seats (so it's not worth it to struggle your way through the crowd of standing Indians just to get out and stretch your legs when the bus stops for 10 minutes). Trust me, it's hard to remain "equanimous" after about 10hrs of this. I was sick the next day. Mild fever, coughing up dark green, almost solid flem. I am Flem-ish after all! Stayed in bed most of the day. Came out only to get some food, and my facial and bodily expressions were very effective in expressing that it was best not to try to sell anything to me. A few brave souls tried, but realized in a glimpse that this girl was "not in the mood for talking". The only thing worth mentioning for that day is that I had ordered French Toast, a Pancake and Rice Pudding, which was under the deserts menu. The guy overacted just a little bit... he showed up with a salad bowl full of rice pudding... I must have looked really hungry and pale or something !?

The next two days in Khajuraho were nice, the nicest of the entire week. I rented a bicycle for a day (for 40 INR = less than 1 Euro, and that's even double the normal price), to get around easily and avoid being bothered by shop-owners and rickshaw drivers. The temples are spread out over the town, but the most interesting ones are grouped (the "Western group") in a nice and quiet parc. Of course, everybody comes to Khajuraho mainly to see the erotic sculptures. And because of that, many local people assume that especially single women who come here, are looking for sex. You'll find the Kama Sutra in just about every souvenir shop, and many hotels claim to be devotees of Osho (a guru with rather liberal ideas on sex as a means to achieving enlightenment).

As I was driving to the Jain temples, a young man came driving next to me on his motorcycle. He was not trying to sell anything, so I gave him the credit of the doubt and talked with him. He was waiting for me when I left the temples, and invited me for a chai. Next, he offered to drive me to the remaining two temples (the Southern group). I could see the fun of sitting on the back of a motorcycle, and eventhough I realized what the boy was really after, I didn't have the impression that he was capable of real violence, and so he wouldn't get that anyway, no matter how hard he'd try. Oh and he tried... yoga seems to have the reputation of being the best way to seduce women in India. "This is Khajuraho, this is life, like the Shiva lingam, we have to join male and female"... yeah yeah, nice try. Anyway, I got to see a wonderful sunset from a hill where no other tourists come.

The next day, the boy was waiting in front of the hotel for me to come out and join him again on his motorcycle. I really didn't feel like sitting on buses again, or being ripped off by another rickshaw driver, so I took his offer. First we went to a small waterfall not far away. Nice place, could have sat there for a few hours, but my guide was impatient. I think he found that there were too many people around and he wanted some privacy to "persuade" me. He wasn't getting anywhere. I told him once more that his attempts were useless, and called him a little baby. Oh that got him angry! Done with driving slowly and trying to avoid potholes.... He drove to the other waterfall, and let me walk around by myself for a while (YESSSS). The waterfall is actually completely dry nowadays. There has not been a monsoon in this area for 2 years, so all that is left is rocks and deep canyons with a little water on the bottom. Peaceful to look at, but a sad reminder of the consequences of pollution.

The "little boy" had to go to his house and show
Khajuraho - And Canadians are o sooo decent...Khajuraho - And Canadians are o sooo decent...Khajuraho - And Canadians are o sooo decent...

Notice the plastic around their feet. I have not seen any other tourists do this. Not even Germans.
me off to his friends before he dropped me at the hotel again. I was relieved to be on my own again, but on the other hand, I had seen more scenery than I would have if I had taken a bus or a rickshaw.

But that was the end of pleasure... The next day (Thursday) I got on another crappy and overcrowded bus to Jhansi (5 hours), and on the train to Agra from there. Joined an Australian couple to a hotel where they'd booked. It was around 8PM when we had dropped our luggage in the rooms and went for dinner.
I got some bad news on the train though: according to the Lonely Planet, entrance to the Taj Mahal is no longer free like it used to be... it is now CLOSED on Fridays!!! Why did I spend so much time on buses and trains again ?? I was actually wondering at some point: would I prefer to be working in the office instead of going through all this hassle? Naaaah, I'd still rather "live" than "die" behind a computer screen . Sorry, boss.

Following the advice of the Lonely Planet (yes yes, I'll actually
Khajuraho - WarriorsKhajuraho - WarriorsKhajuraho - Warriors

Not ALL statues are erotic, you know.
*read* it from now on), I got up at 4:30 to see the Taj Mahal during sunrise. Knowing that this would be the best view that I would get of the Taj, I was a little disappointed. The smog blocks the sun until around 7:30, so the sunrise is not really visible. Even the other side of the river was clouded in smog. Down in the water and on the shore, some ceremony was being held. A woman and a man went into the river, went under so they were entirely wet, and then just stood there without moving. The man went out after 15 minutes or so, but the woman stayed there for half an hour or so. I assume it was some kind of a mourning ceremony for her deceased husband or something. She stood there very strong, didn't move, not even her head. Even with my fleece jacket on, I was feeling cold... and she stood there all wet (see pics).... Respect.

After the sunrise, I went to the train station to find out if I could reschedule my train ticket for one or two days later, but everything was booked. Leaving even later would cause
Khajuraho - BestialitiesKhajuraho - BestialitiesKhajuraho - Bestialities

The woman behind the statue is showing her disapproval by hiding her face, so obviously this is not part of the tantric ideal.
me to be late to meet Rutger and I'd be exhausted. So I went back to the hotel to catch up on some sleep. I checked out around 5PM and went for dinner on a restaurant rooftop with a good view of the Taj Mahal. I was going through my things and noticed I didn't have my mobile phone. The only place it could possibly be, was in the hotel room. I had used the phone as an alarm clock in the morning, and hadn't needed it for any other purpose. If I had kept it with me, it would have been in my blue bag that I keep on my body. But in that same bag is my camera as well and that one was still there. So I don't imagine that a thief would steal the mobile phone and leave the camera. I went back to the hotel. They checked my room, and a boy was already cleaning it. He said he hadn't seen a mobile phone and obviously it wasn't there anymore. I insisted that someone would try to phone my number. If it was in the room or in my bags, we'd hear it ringing. But there was no ring tone, it went to voice mail immediately. Which means that it was indeed stolen, because it wouldn't be off otherwise. The batteries were far from empty. I explained to the hotel managers that I needed to go to the police to get a report in order to get insurance coverage. They were hesitating for a long time .... of course the police would be bad publicity, and a lot of trouble for them. So I waited a little and gave them the option of paying me for another phone. One of the managers gave his own phone. He had received it recently as a Diwali gift, so it's a new one. Ok, that problem is solved. My SIM card is lost however, with all the phone numbers on it. So friends: feel free to send me an e-mail with your phone numbers (both mobile and home), so I can store them in my new phone and reply with my new number (if I put it here, I'll attract Indian "tourist agents"). I have an Indian SIM card now, but it won't work in Nepal.

I immediately phoned Mobistar to block my number, and went directly to the train station to catch the night train to Gorakhpur, around 100 km from the Nepal border. I had booked AC2 class, and that was a good decision. At least there are curtains there, so you can have privacy, and it is less crowded. The train had a delay of 5 hrs, so it arrived in Gorakhpur at 18:00 the next day. Too late to get a ride to the border (a town called Sonauli), so an Australian joined me to look for a room. As the Lonely Planet already said, there were only grungy rooms, so we shared a grungy room. I was very greasy and smelly, but that bathroom was just a little too much for me. I went to bed with the clothes I had worn for 2 full days, without washing... and I am not even a student or a hippie. We tried to get on the first shared jeep once we got out the door. The driver said he'd be leaving in 20 minutes... We left more than an hour later. A 3 hrs ride for only 100km. It remains a mystery to me how these short distances take so much time. But we
Khajuraho SculpturesKhajuraho SculpturesKhajuraho Sculptures

Explicit postures, but don't forget to look at the artistic value also, the audio guide said.
got there. Crossed the border, had some food in a nearby town (in a mellow Japanese style restaurant 😊 !) and talked to some booking agents about buses to Kathmandu and Pokhara (the Australian was going to Pokhara). Since we'd arrived after 1PM, we had no choice but to take a night bus. No sleeper buses. Normal seats. Ugh. Horrible ride. I got the seat just next to the door. The door was open most of the time, a boy hanging out most of the time to see if there was anybody on the way who would want to get on the bus. Wind in my face all the time. Suddenly the driver turns on the music very loudly, the speaker just over 2m away from my ears.. There is no way to describe the horror of that music, combined with the wind, a drunken Nepalese guy looking for trouble with the bus people, no leg room, and the knowledge that this would go on for the rest of the night. I got angry at some point and yelled at the driver to turn the music down. He did, but turned it on again a few hours later.

The bus arrived in Kathmandu at 6AM, I had booked a room to avoid hassles, so I was picked up by a hotel boy... Slept a good part of the day, and went to walk around in the Thamel area in Kathmandu in the afternoon. First impression of Nepal: Love at first sight! So definitely my next blog entry will be more cheerful than this one. Better forget about this one altogether, except for Khajuraho.

Additional photos below
Photos: 33, Displayed: 30


Khajuraho - DrawingKhajuraho - Drawing
Khajuraho - Drawing

An artist was working on this one, see next pic to compare.

The not romantic but still great sunset

21st November 2007

Have been on a speaking and book signing tour of Quebec so am away from home and the computer. What a delight to catch up and read all your entries. I am captivated by your account I am living India through your eyes. Your adventures have brought the sweet and sour taste of India back to my palet. I now have a yearning to go myself after so many false starts. I was pleased that you did a 10 day vipassana retreat. To read of your experience brought back fond memories of my own vipassana experiences. Sorry to hear about your phone problem. I will send you my phone number by email. Now that you are in Nepal try not to give any Free Hugs as it is now illegal to do so. Much love and warm hugs m.
21st November 2007

already Nepal
I can so well imagine the endurance you have been into, the polluted air, the bumpy roads and the lack of private space. I'm left in horror when you talk about not even taking a shower after two long days of traveling, brrr, that means something coming from you! And then this Taj story, and the phone loss... aie aie, are you really sure you don't want to be in cold and wet belgium were everything is so organised and boring? :-). I still wish i could be there with you, at least for some of the vieuws you share with us. HAVE FUN IN NEPAL :-) :-) :-o ;-) :-P !
2nd December 2007

Easy Women
It's plain to see you haven't read the Young Indian Male's Guide to Seducing Western Women. The basic premise seems to be I am handsome and sexy and all western women are sluts. A short book. Poor guy, all he wanted was sex, all you wanted was a ride. He was doomed from the beginning. Would love to hear the story he told his friends.

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