From Bangalore to Bihar, two worlds apart

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February 21st 2019
Published: February 21st 2019
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Laundry ghats
The past month has flown and we have done a lot of travelling in India, touching four different states in South-, Middle and North India. In this short time we were able to see the differences between some of the different states of India very well. While Bangalore is India’s IT capital, super developed with craft beer breweries and hipster coffee bars abound, Bihar is clearly one of the poorest states, a dry state with no alcohol, with people moulding cow shit into fuel patties barehanded.

After our wonderful wedding week in Pune we found our (rail)way to Mumbai, where we spent a few days exploring the city before flying to Mangalore and immediately continuing a bit north to Udupi and then onwards to Gokarna.

Gokarna was one of the beach towns in South India we had not visited before and heard and read good stories about. It did certainly not disappoint, we found a small cheap cabin a few steps from the beautiful sandy and quiet Om beach. We like our beaches small and quiet so we really liked Om beach a lot.

After a few days unwinding we returned to Mangalore by train to pick up the parents of Judith from the airport and to spend a beautiful week of travelling together with a lot of TLC, good food and drinks and sometimes a little bit adventure for Mr and Mrs Van T., Joke and Lauran.

We started off with a good introduction to the way Judith and Merijn travel with an amazing but super cheap Thali meal in a good Mangalore restaurant and later some very local very spicy and again very cheap seafood dishes in a small restaurant at night which the parents truly loved.

We had hired Lohit as our driver for the whole week and he first took us to Udupi to visit the famous Hindu Krishna temple complex, where the guys need to go bare chested and luckily no pictures can be taken. Also we got to taste the South Indian veg food for which Udupi is famous before we continued to Subrahmanya, another holy place where we visited the temple.

Next we went to Coorg, riding through endless coffee plantations, to the Thaneerhulla Coffee Estate, where not only Tata grows a lot of their coffee plants but where is also a beautiful cottage where we stayed a few days. We were pampered by the private chef and butler who served us only local specialties. We got to visit both the coffee plantation and the tea plantation factory and we saw a lot of peppercorn plants growing in the coffee plantations.

On the way from Coorg we visit an elephant breeding farm where we saw the mahouts (elephant drivers) train, wash and take care of the elephants and we stop on the way to visit a large Tibetan temple and monastery complex in Bykaluppe. We continued to Mysore where we had booked rooms at a hotel with roof top pool and a beer garden so that’s where we spent one afternoon and night. We visit the enormous Maharadja Palace of Mysore and stroll through the colourful local market with tens of flower stands. We enjoy a very local lunch with dosa and our favourite chaat and we went to a fine dining place for a very pleasant evening outside with great Indian food and wine.

On our way to Bangalore, our last stop with the four of us, we visit one of the wineries the Grover Vineyard for a fun and tasty wine tasting and visit. Bangalore must be one of the most modern, rich and developed cities of India and interesting to see and fun to spend some time in. We walked around town and of course sampled some good food and drinks again. Our last night together Judith invited us all to late-celebrate her birthday and to celebrate that the two of us have already been two years on the road (and we still love it). This was a special last night with the best food, wine, great company, a surprise birthday cake and some tears of both happiness and sadness because we all knew it will take quite some time again before we will be able to see each other.

After saying goodbye to Lauran and Joke we fly from Bangalore to busy, noisy and dirty Patna in the under explored state Bihar and the difference cannot be bigger. Bihar has been a no-go area some time ago but is now perfectly safe to visit though not a lot of western tourists do so. We did not see or meet a single western tourist except when we came to Bodhgaya.

Bodhgaya is one of the most important places in the world for Buddhists and a pleasant surprise for us. This is the exact spot where Buddha sat under a bodi tree for a long time and got enlightened. There is a beautiful temple complex around the bodi tree now and there are many Buddhist monasteries from all different Buddhist nations with Buddhist pilgrims from the whole world flooding the small town. Busloads of people, many from China, come here to meditate, pay respect and pray.

From Bodhgaya we rode in a autorikshaw through rural Bihar and then with an old bus we did the same to get to Rajgir. This ride gave us a good view of this underdeveloped and disadvantaged state. It’s clear that the government is now investing in things like infrastructure but still it felt more like we were in an African country some times. There is a lot of agriculture but all very old-fashioned and not making use of any technology or machinery. Everywhere we could see people keeping buffalos and the main activity of many people was collecting the cow shit and making it with their hands into flat patties which they stuck to their walls to dry for them later to use (or sell) as burning fuel. We stay close to the bus stand and the continuous noise of the cars, rickshaws, busses and trucks is really incredible. Add to this that the people themselves here are also very noisy in their daily life this must be the noisiest place we have ever been to.

We visited Nalanda University, an impressive huge complex of ruins, only partly restored, of what was once the oldest university of the world, the biggest university complex of the east and the source of Tibetan Buddhism. A showcase of the great civilization of ancient India with around 10.000 students studying and living in the monasteries, a nine story library with millions of books, all rich and beautiful until it got plundered, destroyed and burned to the ground in the year 1193.

We travelled another 12 hour train ride to Lucknow from where we had decided we want to travel to Nepal. Lucknow also has a very rich and developed history but nowadays most of the old buildings are in dire state, it’s heavily congested and the noise of the traffic, drivers using their horn just all the time, again is deafening. We visit the Islamic / Moghul sites like the Rumi Gate and Bara Imambara a huge building with some kind of labyrinth inside. Although usually a guide is compulsory, apparently because local couples found good hiding spots for some hanky-panky, we got inside the labyrinth on our own, apparently we did not look suspiciously or they just ran out of guides. We thought nothing of the labyrint and found our way easy but after some time it became a little annoying that we could not find our way back out, so it was a true labyrinth after all (but at the end we managed of course).

Lucknow is famous for its cuisine as well so as this was our last stop in India (for now) we found some great spots to taste its famous kebabs but also spectacular potato basket chaat, aloo tiki chaat, dahi vada and dahi puri. Leaving tomorrow for Nepal, we’ll miss this food …

Additional photos below
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Mangalore to Bangalore

Elephant dung coffee beans ;-)
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Coffee plant in bloom

23rd February 2019

Ying and Yang of India
You've seen a lot and are able to compare and contrast the wide variances that abound in India. Congratulations to two years on the road and continued happiness. Enjoy the cuisine.

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