Posted by: globalrichard | March 5, 2010

A summary From Bangalore with Old Friends

Incredible India. Insouciant present. Indeterminable future. What fun.

Hyderbad, the second silicon valley of India, was warm and became family. Kanyakumari, the southern cape of the continent, was brief and spiritual accompanied with modest and delightful canadians, intrepid spaniards and creative frenchwoman in an Indian tourist scene. Varkala was a surprise birthed from a shared bob dylan track on the train that grew into a four day beach holiday, a welcomed pause from traveling where european resort life flourished and deep friendships were made with the outstanding. Aleppi was a trainwrecked homestay salvaged by a tranquil backwater ferry through palm trees, canals, seas, chinese crab nets and pleasent conversations. Mangalore was a gateway to Dharmastala for Jain purification rituals among the Jains after a green bus ride. The city itself was forgetful besides a needed laundry run and a supreme fish lunch. Mysore was a full day beginning just after four of photo documenting historic markets exploring rich palaces and a mountain temple of their local diety. Bangalore is just beginning, but like all the stops listed (except allepi) will be too short.

I came to Bangalore because my old friend Katya lives here as an expat dreamworks employee. Engaged to a frenchman and successfully transplanted to the subcontinent, it is but normal for us to meet in these usually unusal circumstances as we always manage to do unplanned around the globe. After a dinner at the local followed by a pair of beers and a share of reminicses, youtubes and deep conversations, our unconventional reunions continue to amaze and will undoubtedly continue. Tomorrow I will hang out with her man and perhaps learn to ride a motorcycle in the parking lot before meeting for lunch and go-carting the evening. By Sunday I must again continue wayword north towards delhi to reunite with the crew and have time in Delhi to write the blog, type my journal and visit some of the most important cities ive only traveled around but not in.

The trip is winding down and future time in america is knocking.

Posted by: globalrichard | February 19, 2010

Chilling out in Hyderabad

Weather like San Diego summer, friends like college days, Megacity that is  uniquely Indian. I like Hyderabad.

This will be updated after lunch.

Posted by: globalrichard | February 16, 2010

Getting to Hyderabad

I flexed the Indian transportation system to get to Hyderabad. After taking a day trip from Vizag to the Araku Valley where there are famous painted caves available for touring, i returned to beach city with plan to pick my bag up from the cloak room and jump on one of the two night trains directly to the capital city. It should be noted that the train to Araku is heralded not only as one of the most significant engineering feats for the Indian rail line as well as the highest broad gauge track in the country, but it is also breathtaking. Hugging the mountain ridge and encircling the verdant valley, the train churns by spectacular views, and through hundreds of created for the track, where all the kid passengers scream OOOOOhhhhhhhhhhh upon entry. My rapid transit plan was almost derailed by the cumbersome return journey. Since most of the rail line is one track, we were sidelined for almost a collective  3 hours to let other freighters and express trains pass, pushing our arrival  back to 9pm.The ticket counter only had general tickets available for the 732km, 14 hour journey. It cost 140 INR, or roughly 3 greenbacks.

General tickets are for the impoverished ,the desperate, and the ascetics. My understanding is that general tickets never sell-out. Passengers are allowed into the specified compartments with their luggage, animals, children, and smells to fend for themselves in any condition they can. In short it is the cheapest and most insane way to travel. I know this first-hand because I had just taken the general seating on my return trip from Araku to Vizag. Since it was a short journey and I managed to get a seat, and quickly upgrade to a window seat on the preferred side for absorbing the panoramic views, it was most enjoyable. That said, we were also 6 people across to a normal 3 person bench, with 4-6 rambunctious  school children sitting on the bunk above us–I concluded that gen. tickets are a fine experience to have when one isn’t traveling overnight, or with an overstuffed orange backpack.

Having purchased my hyderabad gen ticket, I went to the cloak room and retrieved big orange. I had an hour before the train would leave. So, I exploited the upper class waiting rooms. As a consequence of being anglo, i can walk rapidly into this monitored area past the ticket checker and enjoy the amenities reserved for upper class passengers under the assumption that i must myself be one. That said, the facilities still aren’t amazing, and I do not in any way feel bad for doing it since foreign prices at museums and transportation are exacted from me anyway. After washing, I had a cup of chai and then went down to the awaiting train to see what I could haggle.

The train arrived early. The train was nearly already full (the line started some 800 km away). I started walking up to ticket checkers to see if I could buy one of them into giving me an AC3 seat. I was told this should cost in normal circumstances a tidy 100 rupee bribe, but I was more than prepared to offer more, at least the actual price of the ticket. The first ticket collector was surrounded by Indians probably making similar requests, and he brushed me off. I then enlisted the help of a skinny porter who spryly took me from compartment to compartment pleading my case to the ticketters. We marched from one side of the train until the other and had no luck. The train was set to depart in five minutes and I was advised by locals to simply find a spot in sleeper class and remain confident that I would be accommodate. Out of options I did exactly that, after i paid my hardworking porter 25 rupees, a healthy amount for him, although of course he was asking for riches. I went into a completely full compartment and was questioned in Maori by the father of a large family. Though we had no common langauge, Ishowed him my ticket and the situation to both of us was clear. While continually making jokes, he jovially had his family slide over and make room for me to seat. I would be their in-flight entertainment. Just then, my porter returned and wildly gesticulated I should follow him. He led me to a young ticketter who said he could get me into AC3 for 500 INR and I happily agreed. I paid the porter another 50 for his diligent work, and went to my assigned sleeper compartment to wait out my next transfer.

Ultimately, I did not make it to AC3 as it was fully booked. Instead, I had a full, lower bunk sleeper secured for 350 INR in baksheesh, and it was good.

Posted by: globalrichard | February 10, 2010

From Visakhapatnam with announcements.

Or Vy-zag as most people refer to it. It’s a beach town and travel hub located on the eastern side of andhra pradesh, a province that has recently graced the front news pages due to political, nonviolent unrest in the capital city of hyderabad. Vizag is 1.3 million car honking people who enjoy their massive coastline as well as their freshest of fish. It is excellent to see the ocean again. Even if the girls wear sarees in the water.

I arrived at 3pm after a long train ride in general class that began at 11pm the previous evening. The ride was uneventful, but humid and I arrived in a bustling station with the goal of purchasing overbooked train tickets to the arukka caves. The journey itself is prized as one of the most beautiful in the entire land including waterfalls and the caves are said to contain religious carvings as well as stalagtites and stalagmites. Hopefully, my reservation cum tickets will work out as i will be getting to the train station at 630am expecting the trip to work. Otherwise, I will make due with exploring the city’s environs and jumping on another night train to hyderabad for some more sightseeing and spicy biryana (kinda like a rice pilauf with chili sauce)

I should add that i met an intelligent 13 yr old kid when i was walking along the beach. He was collecting “carbonized and calcified rocks” for his geology project where he aims to have his group earn first place. He was deadly serious and quite informative about the city, so i invited him to lunch with me at a cafe with a sea view and he had a kitkat milkshake while i consumed an oreo one with a paneer burger and an order of fries. A solid meal.

Now i’m at an internet cafe that i was shown my a nice girl who is in a fight with her boyfriend and was kind enough to not only show me to the location but is waiting while i finish my internetting. That is why this is the most jumbled and short entry.

Regarding the last weeks: A great friend has gifted me a journal so i have been keeping up with happenings in great detail in the physical world here in india. i aim someday to bring that all to bear on this blog.

Also, massive picasa picture albums have been uploaded and will be edited in the next days for public viewing.

Posted by: globalrichard | February 2, 2010

mustache

Should I really Shave? hmmm

Posted by: globalrichard | January 17, 2010

Jaipur

I covered Jaipur in two long days of sightseeing, bargaining and street food eating. Luckily, I managed to participate in the Muslim festival of Muharram, what I always knew as Ashura.

Waking up early, I resolved to walk to the old pink city (though really it is only a few hundred years old, founded Founded on 18 November, 1727 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, an education enlightened despot who laid out a celestial oriented, gridded, city and then painted it pink as to welcome the British and their money). Given my time constraints, on the first day I wanted to explore the royal astrology center, the downtown palace, barter for some silver goods, eat spicy Rajasthani street foods, go to a few temples, and climb whatever pillars could be climbed.  Actually, I think there was one more tourist thing that I accomplished but since I do not have my camera or journal present it will remain omitted.

After getting directions from a rickshawwallah, I weaved through some side streets and found the main drag that would lead me to the pink, passing many hovels of warthogs, cows and refuse along the way. After what seemed like a long time, a bright, pastel archway embelished with painted leaves stood before me. I made it! But, everything was closed.

In most Indian cities, at least all that I have thus far visited, commerce begins in the marketplaces at or after 11am and concludes before midnight (in Bundi shops are closed at sundown). Since it was just 10, I knew I had ample time to kill. Sourcing the Lonely Planet, I went off to find Ganesh Restaurant located on top of the perimeter of the old city, near another gateway. Without much hassle, i discovered the narrow staircase that led to a pile of children and adults husking and chopping vegetables. I was early. And the first customer.  Most of the furniture was still wet from the morning cleaning, so I found the dry seat in the corner overlooking the thoroughfare and ordered some paneer and buttered roti w/ a large water. The food was above average, and the wind ferociously annoying.  Still I stayed there the nearly an hour enjoying the view before heading to main tourist attractions that open at 8am.

It was easy to find the palace and astrology center as they were the only white, huge buildings and they were practically in the city center by a towering minnerette.  I wandered into the Astrology center first where strange, larger than life staircases and duplicated carved spheres stood next to terrific angled sundials and strange depressions in a spacios concrete park that had a few trees. Given the unfamiliarity of this science, I hired a fast-talking guide for 100 INR. He thoroughly explained to me each device. Every piece was first created as a model (often on site and the size of a rhino) and tested before the full-size was installed. Here the king could decipher the lattitude and longitude of stars, the time, the angle of the earth and a few other things i can’t remember. Most tools had complementary parts next to them so that they would work using the suns shadow in the morning and evening. Extra sundials were in place to work during the solstices, when the sun would be directly overhead.

Next I moved onward to the city palace that was kind of dissapointing, a trend for Rajasthan, where forts are beyond expectations and museums(palaces) merely tributes to legacies of fighting and textiles. This palace had a few nice buildings displaying typical weapons and traditional gowns that were overcrowded with tourists. Apparently, the city founder was a beast of a man who also was a polo champion. Audio tours were included with the admission but only recited what was written on the plaques located by the specified numbers.

Upon leaving I was cajoled by a local rickshawwala to ride in his helicopter to the water palace, a place i had never heard of and assumed would not be very exciting. But, since his price was right and he was pretty hilarious, I opted to go. .. more soon

Posted by: globalrichard | January 15, 2010

Going to Rajasthan

The day after Christmas was time to begin my solotrek to Rajasthan, the dry  western province famous for its colorful cities and monstrous forts created by feuding kings, amazing textiles and intricate jewelry, as well as great mustaches and fierce caste system.

To acclimate myself I began nurturing my own stache that I sadly will part with later today. Though this part of the country boasts a great government run bus system, hotels and guesthouses for all budgets and a healthy amount of Internet connections, it remains quite backwards in terms of education and literacy. Thus, I am unable to find an official link for the annual Rajasthan festival that involves many a feat, but, most importantly, awards the men with the greatest facial hair. This is the best link i can find. I’ll post a few pics of myself soon.

I took a Tuk Tuk to the Bikaner house in central Delhi in order to purchase a bus ticket. Buying transportation tickets is always peaceful but never calm. The crowd encircles the ticket counter forming a human shield that cracks open only to release the satisfied customer before again closing seemingly more constricted than before. At any time there are between 3 and 5 hands holding ticket requests and money underneathe the tiny  glass openning where the operator gingerly handles one request at a time without bias.  One must know exactly what one wants and be ready to corner off sprye customers who will slip and bully themselves to the front of the mass. After about 15 minutes I managed to secure a seat on the back of the 4:30 Volvo deluxe bus headed to Jaipur, the pink city and capital of Rajasthan.

The bus departed more or less on time. I sat in the second seat from the right window in a line of five. Surprisingly, each seat came with one liter of minteral water. Per usual, i was the only non-indian. Slipping in my headphones i cranked up my ipod and attempted to sleep, or at the least avoid being pulled into conversation. This worked for the first hours of the journey and I managed a few fits of rest. This all changed after the first rest stop.

Stops on Indian busses are similar to those in the states and Europe. People are offloaded in large commerical areas where bathrooms, and a variety of warm and packaged food are available. Chai is drank by nearly everyone.

Once we got back on the bus the large Rajasthani on my left engaged me in conversation. He was a building contractor who specialized in pipelines, streets and other infrastructure. Before our introductions were over he considered us chummy and was delivering the customary pats on my arm and leg of paternal friendship. He already knew my name, as did all the others, from my need  to yell it to the ticket counter for accuracy 4 hours earlier. Soon, he asked me to sing a song which i politely declined. Others encouraged me to belt one, but I resolved to disengage myself from all dialogue. After about 10 minutes where each of us was trying to convince the other to sing, the Tamil on my right took out his Nokia 95 equipped with 8 tragic gigs of Hindi music and proceded to blast high pitch, theatrical numbers from i’d guess the 60’s. These tunes delighted the entire back of the bus and many sang or hummed along for the remaining 5 or so hours of the journey. Occassionally, they asked me if i was enjoying the sounds, and of course, the answer was an emphatic yes. It was obvious when we reached Jaipur because much of the city was pink.

Scheduled to arrive at 10:00pm we actually honked our way into Jaipur well past midnight. Thankfully, i had Amrita reserve my place in a lonely planet guesthouse earlier in the day and then let the proprieter know of my late arrival. Grabbing my bags and ignoring the throng of rickshaw touts, I crossed the street to the lane of 30 or so odd tuk tuks and began bargaining for my ride showing the drivers a sheet of paper holding my hotel name. After getting slightly ripped off, off we went on the 4 minute ride to the guesthouse (later i would always walk). I greeted owner, traded my passport for a key and was shown to my plain, clean and white 2 bedroom room with my own western bathroom. Not bad!

Posted by: globalrichard | January 12, 2010

historical delhi

 
Posted by: globalrichard | January 1, 2010

Hindus and a Jew celebrate xmas

There weren’t too many jolly, bearded white men ho ho hoing in the holiday season to jingles, carols and muzak, but there was christmas music and selective decorations in The Promenade, the nicest mall in Delhi. It was at the Promenade that the holiday celebration begun and also where it neatly ended.

After a long 24th where we played cards and chatted until close to 2am it was easy to convince Amrita to take the day off work to enjoy the holiday, although this was still somewhat of a risk as she must complete a major report for her work before the years’ end.

We decided that we would organize food, drinks, and some semblance of traditional xmas decorations (amrita always had a tree growing up in Kolkatta, where santa is quite popular) for a small gathering at the house in the evening. First, we went to enjoy Paa, a popular Bollywood movie, featuring a famous elderly actor who plays a child with a genetic defec that makes him rapidly age. (spoiler alert!) His mother is a gorgeous Obstetrician and has him out of wedlock with a powerful politicians son who would prefer an abortion as news of their relations would damage his career. It is only near the end of the film that he learns that the child was not aborted and is actually this special, popular, elderly kid.  The child lives long enough to get his parents to wed and havea bridght, bollywood future together.In reality the actor who played the father is the son of the grandpakind. It was a nice film with not very much dancing, but a few solid montages. During the intermission we went to the concession stand to discover only popcorn in sizes fit for the maharaja and all his concubines were available, so we proceded to order nachos that came with sealed nacho and salsa in separat containers. The cashier also didn’t have any change. He wrote the amount due to me the back of a paper plate which he then ripped and gave me. About halfway through the second half of the film, a flashlight cut down the left aisle, where the cashier was searching for my assigned seat. He delivered me the money and returned outside.

Once the movies were completed we went to purchase groceries and some holiday cheer. Although we could not locate a tree, we did manage to buy plum cake, and Atri brought candles to the house to make the fesitvities complete. Once finished with the mall we hopped in a tuk-tuk and went about 20 minutes to the local English wine and liquor shop. (Courtesy of Collonialism, every alchol vendor bears this name) We purchased a few 600ml Kingfishers, and a bottle of wine before jumping into another tuk-tuk to journey home.  Amrita started inviting over friends, while I made some playlists and then we ordered heaps of Chinese food.  And it was delicious.

Atri arrived at 9pm followed shortly thereafter by three close friends who stayed the night. We chatted, ate, played Set and Jenga, told stories. Since everyone originally had plan to travel this weekend, it was decided that we would take a spontaneous road trip the next day. Atri found an interesting place via an internet search and it was decided we would leave first thing in the morning for Eastern Rajasthan, have a nice breakfast along the way and make to an impressive fort by lunchtime followed by a few different potential routes based on time and traffic: either a trip to the most haunted town in India, or a journey to a large Lake in Alwar. Ultimately we chose the latter.

Atri and I stayed up all night and began the morning nuptials at 4:30. Tea was made, food was stored, and trash bagged. Around 5 we began rousing the road warriors who slowly shook themselves to conciousness. Then we were off in two silver hatchbacks. The fort was very beautiful, and also very small. With a 500 INR entrance fee it had gorgeous views of the village below and a pool with a panaromic vista. But before we saw that we had to backtrack on the road to find a place to serve us breafast. After this most necesarry meal we returned and stormed the fort as paying visitors before driving onward, past many rajasthani villages to Sillysillylake in Alwar.

Alwar was a very clean, organized city that had excellent trees and hundreds of monkeys. The Sillylake is actually the southern tip of a large wildlife reserve and therefore was teeming with fish and birds. We ate an exoribinate amount of snacks (pikoras, omlettes and fries) as the full kitchen services had closed, and booked a boat trip and walked along the dam. Pictures will show the serenity of this place best.

We then piled into our cars and embarked a 6 hour journey home. And it was hard, gruelling and difficult, but we made it with most faculties intact. Along the way, a rock was stuck in our partner car’s gearbox resulting in the car being stuck to only 3rd gear. Thankfully he was able to slowly drive with with hazards lights ablazing to the next cluster of civilization, where Amrita spotted an auto shop that was still open at 11am. 3 Kids managed to assess and fix the problem in 5 minutes time for cheap and then we were back on the road, delerious and determined.

When we arrived back in Delhi, Atri was insistent that we eat a solid meal, one we did deserve. So back to the Promenade wewent for ItAlia, and we ate like kings, shortly before sleeping like rocks. A great holiday.

Posted by: globalrichard | January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

HARPER’S YEARLY REVIEW

January 1, 2010

Yearly Review

Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the forty-fourth
president of the United States and ordered the detention
center at Guantanamo Bay closed within a year. George
W. Bush gave his final press conference. “Abu Ghraib was a
huge disappointment,” he said. “Not having weapons of mass
destruction was a significant disappointment.” A federal
appeals court in Texas ruled to permit the sacrifice of
goats. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael
Steele announced an “off the hook” Republican publicity
campaign, targeting “urban-suburban hip-hop settings.” “We
need to uptick our image with everyone,” Steele said,
“including one-armed midgets.” When asked about the state
of the Republican party, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty
said, “It’s kind of like asking whether the stock market
has bottomed out.” Thirty-nine million Americans were on
food stamps, 54 percent of graduating U.S. business majors
lacked job offers, and two gunmen robbed a man of one
dollar in the parking lot of an Ohio Wendy’s. A top
Pentagon official said that “cutbacks at Best Buy” made it
easier to recruit better-qualified young people for the
military. The war in Iraq turned six; the war in
Afghanistan turned eight; SpongeBob SquarePants turned
ten. In Afghanistan, where the Taliban threatened to chop
off the fingers of anyone who votes, the government passed
a law allowing men to starve wives who refuse sex.

Sea levels continued to rise, and a 40-yard-wide asteroid
just missed the earth. The Mediterranean Sea was plagued
by blobs. Pope Benedict XVI visited Africa; in Angola he
warned against witchcraft, corruption, and condoms. Papal
archaeologists in Rome authenticated the bones of Saint
Paul the Apostle, and Jesus Christ was dismissed from jury
duty in Alabama. Toxic-mining wastes in Idaho were killing
tundra swans; a man in Munich received a two-year
suspended sentence for beating another man with a
swan. Highly aggressive supersquirrels were menacing gray
squirrels in England, where the Law Lords were replaced
with a new Supreme Court whose justices wear no wigs, and
where cosmetic nipple surgery was increasingly popular. A
London taxi driver tied one end of a rope around a post
and the other around his neck and drove away, launching
his head from the car. Anglican hymns were sung at
Darwin’s tomb. Two Yellowstone National Park workers were
fired for peeing into Old Faithful. Sarah Palin published
a book, and Sylvia Plath’s son hanged himself in
Alaska. Scientists in San Diego made a robot head study
itself in a mirror until it learned to smile.

Newspaper circulation in the United States declined to its
lowest level in 70 years. It was revealed via Twitter that
President Obama called Kanye West a “jackass” and that a
coyote ran off with Jessica Simpson’s maltipoo. The Taco
Bell chihuahua died of a stroke, and Sonia Sotomayor was
sworn in as a Supreme Court justice. Walter Cronkite,
Merce Cunningham, and Senator Edward M. Kennedy died, as
did Michael Jackson. Ariel Sharon was still alive. Hamas
and Fatah held peace talks in Cairo. Israel approved the
construction of 900 more settler homes in East Jerusalem,
and ten Florida middle schoolers were suspended for
participating in Kick a Jew Day. Chicago rats fed a diet
of bacon, cheesecake, Ho Hos, pound cake, and sausage
began to behave like rats addicted to heroin, and a
Minnesota man pleaded guilty to driving a La-Z-Boy while
intoxicated. China created a small black hole, and NASA
revealed that a mysterious streak of light spotted by
onlookers in the night sky above North America was a
fortnight’s worth of astronaut urine. Physicists said
that the aural jitters picked up by a German
gravitational-wave detector may indicate that we all live
in a giant and blurry cosmic hologram. The United States,
searching for water, bombed the moon.

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