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Published: January 3rd 2008
Silent night, holy river, all is hectic...all is touts
(yes I know I win the award for Miss Cheesy 2008). On christmas day we woke up in the grungy, dirty borderside town of Bharawia, packed our bags and headed across the Nepal-India border on foot. They'd decided to crack down on people overstaying their visas in Nepal, so I had to pay a fine of over $40 US for my 6 extra days in Nepal - a huge sum for a country where the average wage is about $1 per day. We spent our last Nepalese rupees on a quick bite to eat at a roadside stall - I scoffed down 2 plates of plain spinach with cumin, while Matt opted for a plate of masala rice. After a 2 hour jeep trip to Gorakhpur we jumped on a train to Varanasi as it was pulling away from the station.
We were in general class on a train that stopped at EVERY stop along the way (Janine you'll know our frustration!!) But we met some very friendly people and enjoyed listening to the chants of "Chai chai chai chai" instead of Silent night
By the time we chug chugged our way into
the train station at Varanasi it was after 11pm. We celebrated with a christmas curry in a hotel opposite the train station at midnight. How glamorous!
I've already written about Varanasi in a previous blog so I won't bore you with more details of Indias holiest city.
Matt chickened out on
his dip in the Ganges so we will never know whether an emmersion in the "curing ghat" could have signalled the final days of his diahorrea battle. He will pay the price!
While most of the other locals were busy performing
various religious rituals on the banks of the Ganges, a friendly young body builder was building up a great sweat. Matt had a wonderful time grilling him about what he ate (including 20 eggs per day), how much he lifted and what competitions he had been in. He accepted our request of a quick photo shoot and promptly stripped down to his jocks - check out the pics in this blog.
We were lucky to jump on yet another
train, just as it was pulling away from the station. The 30 hour train journey was rivveting. Ha. We did manage to keep ourselves relitavely amused munching down
train snacks - sugar cane blocks, raisins, samosas, fresh peanuts, chai, bananas, chickpea flour sweets, rice bubble masala mix (with onions, coriander and lemon juice) and potato curry. And we met 2 friendly Australian girls and an interesting hippy from Canada (he bathes in the Ganges, spent weeks living off less than $1 per day in the jungle in Goa and lots of other weird stuff - check out the picture)
- with some of the most expensive real estate in the world is a really interesting mix of Western and Indian culture. Most of Indias "jet set" crowd live here - from business men to actresses - and the place is kitted out with all of the comforts from home. There are plenty of gourmet restaurants - including Mc Donalds and Subway haha - and 5 star hotels. Posh weddings can be viewed every evening on the waterfront. It's very much a place for rich Indians to see and be seen - the LA of India. We had a fleeting stay in Bombay (only one night) en route to Goa for New Years.
We arrived at Paloem Beach in Goa
just in time to see the sun
set for the last time in 2007. I wined and dined on fresh tropical fruit, lassis and crispy green salads. Lazing around under palm trees is damn tough and the easy access to ecstacy, cocain and hashish just adds to the fun. Ha. As do the hoards of hippies who've been kept in a time warp from the 60's. Actually there are no hippies here - you wouldn't even think we were in India.
It's amazing how different it feels here - such a contrast to the dry deserts up North. Life is much more relaxed down here, fruit trees blossom in the tropical climate and the sea is full of juicy fish. There are far fewer saris and christian churches seem to outnumber hindu temples. Hundreds of palm trees dottle the beach inbetween basic cocktail huts and fancier restaurants. At night the whole beach twinkles with fairy lights, candles and pretty cloth lanterns, which makes the atmosphere similiar to that on the Thai Islands. The weather is perfect and although it's hot, it's not very humid. Tourists far outnumber locals - the only ones that seem to venture down onto the beach are boat touts, jewellery & fruit sales
Too long in India?
The 30 hour train journey from Varanasi to Mumbai
people, a few beggars and seedy men who want to oggle at all of the bikini clad western women.
It would be easy to spend weeks here - it doesn't take long for the relaxed beach life to lure you in. I ran into a guy I met in Rajasthan earlier on in the year and he has spent the last 3 months on this very beach!
We'll probably hang out here for a few more days before whizzing back up North to see more desert forts.
*there's a second page of photos*
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