Posts tagged: travel

India: Wandering Aimlessly In Jaipur

By , May 23, 2011 2:30 am
Colorful Camels

Colorful Camels

Looking for a hotel seems to be getting more and more difficult for us each time we arrive in a new city. As we consult travel guides, the recommended hotels are conveniently located nearby train stations, but there is no other appeal. In Jaipur, we end up walking for hours looking for a midrange accommodation. Is it too much to ask for a clean hotel that is moderately priced in India?

Old Building

Old Building

Exhausted but not willing to give up, I go on my own to look for the best place for my Frenchie. Two hours later, I return with just that. I find a business hotel in Jaipur with a friendly professional staff that is willing to negotiate with me.  It is heaven to step inside a nice hotel with clean white sheets, new bathroom, and free wifi. Maybe the dirtiness in India is starting to get to us after all.

Room @ Hotel Le Grand

Room @ Hotel Le Grand

Bathroom @ Hotel Le Grand

Bathroom @ Hotel Le Grand

In the mornings, we get breakfast at the hotel next door, owned by the same owner. It is nice to have fresh squeezed juice and sit outside by the garden with no agenda. The restaurant employees are mostly Nepalese. It is the first time we meet a Nepalese and I find myself starting at them in adoration. They look Chinese at first, but their other physical features indicate they are not. I talk to them about Nepal and learn that they still live there, but come to India to work because there are more jobs here. They live in India for most of the year and then return to Nepal to visit their family. They are so friendly and wonderful to meet that it makes me want to visit Nepal even more.

Coconut Leaves

Coconut Leaves

In Jaipur, there are a few sightseeing activities to do, but with the recent loss of my friend, I feel no desire to move. Boris gets me out to go do some walking around in the bazaars and visit the Jantar Mantar to see astronomical instruments built by a lover of architecture and astronomy.  Also in this area, there are a few buildings to admire. The pink facade of Hawa Mahal, part of the City Palace, is pretty unique. From afar, you can see Amber Fort.

Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal

Architecture @ Jantar Mantar

Architecture @ Jantar Mantar

Beautiful Street With Shops

Beautiful Street With Shops

My favorite spot turns out to be a popular local destination to hangout and admire the Jal Mahal, a water palace. There are lots of families here and we notice the large number of colorfully dressed females walking together in groups. Our rickshaw driver informs us it is a festival for women and we think he is referring to the Gangaur Festival. I recommend coming straight to this part of the city as the air is better, it is more peaceful, and there are many shops, restaurants, and hotels scattered nearby.

Jal Mahal

Jal Mahal

Single And Married Ladies All Dressed Up Together

Single And Married Ladies All Dressed Up Together

More pictures of Jaipur.

Stairwell @ Jantar Mantar

Stairwell @ Jantar Mantar

Planet Locator @ Jantar Mantar

Planet Locator @ Jantar Mantar

Small Fruit Market

Small Fruit Market

Shopping Alley

Shopping Alley

Rickshaw In Front Of Minaret

Rickshaw In Front Of Minaret

Vegetarian Thali With Dosas

Vegetarian Thali With Dosas

What We Paid: INR USD Euro
– Sleeping train from Jaisalmer to Jaipur 2d class with AC 950/pp 21.10 14.90
– Private double room @ Hotel Le Grand [very nice and clean, AC, Wifi, recommend, bargain hard as prices start at 4500 for a double] 1500/double 33.40 23.50
– Sankalp Taste Of South chain restaurant 145/pp 3.22 2.27
– Mc Donalds Mc Chicken Meal 75/pp 1.67 1.17
– Breakfast @ Hotel Palms 95/pp 2.11 1.49
– Jantar Mantar entrance fee 100/pp 2.23 1.57
– Camera fee @ Jantar Mantar 50 1.11 0.78
– Auto Rickshaw for an hour 150/ride 3.34 2.35

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

India: The Desert City Of Jaisalmer

By , May 20, 2011 7:59 am
A True Local Experience

A True Local Experience

The more west we go within northern India, the hotter and dryer the landscapes become. With no apparent vegetation around us, we arrive in Jaisalmer. This city is nicknamed the “Golden City” because of the color of its sandstone buildings in the sunset, which really translates to a FREAKING HOT desert city.

City Of Jaisalmer

City Of Jaisalmer

The tourist draw of Jaisalmer is the unforgettable experience of a desert safari. As we look around, there are busloads of tourists and high priced hotels that do no offer much besides high prices.  There are many accommodations available, but we spend hours looking for a decent place to stay at a reasonable price and I am appalled by the treatment we receive here.

The Fortified City

The Fortified City

We decide to split up to make the search for a hotel room faster. However, when I arrive alone at a hotel, the workers, who are all males, would ignore me and tell me to go away as there are no rooms available and then go back to sleeping or chatting. When Boris arrives alone to the same hotel, he still receives a cold welcoming but is serviced (and they told me they were full). This happens so many times, but we finally find one hotel that is clean and the workers are a tiny bit happy to see us. As we are at ease that we finally have a hotel, here comes the catch. The relentless plead for us to sign up for a desert safari does not stop during our entire stay, which makes it all the more uninteresting to us.

Men Hanging Out And Laughing

Men Hanging Out And Laughing

As I continue to search for the bright side of this city, I find the shop owners to be a lot warmer (probably because they want me to buy something). There are many things here to look at but just be careful of the quality, especially the dye on the fabrics. My favorites are the mirrored textile wall blankets, which I regret not buying. I thought I would find it later, but quality is worst in the bigger cities and some of the textiles are special to the Rajasthan region.

Fortified Streets

Fortified Streets

On our last day in Jaisalmer, we make it up the fort. Most of the buildings have been converted to a hotel or a shop, filled with the same things, but we still have an enjoyable time. We meet a man who invites us to look inside his home and he shares with us the history of the building. He is selling a few trinkets at a reasonable price and there is no pressure to buy. We are very happy to meet this kind of businessman.

Old House

Old House

Wooden Ceiling Of Passageway

Wooden Ceiling Of Passageway

Engraving On Arch

Engraving On Arch

Beautiful Balcony

Beautiful Balcony

House With Lots Of Balconies

House With Lots Of Balconies

We meet Brian from Canada who is very nice in helping us find a hotel.  He went on the desert safari in Jaisalmer so we asked him how it was. He said he enjoyed it, but if he had to repeat it, he would have liked to do it in another city like Jodhpur where the desert is bigger and the experience is more authentic. So, we opted out on the desert safari. Thanks Brian!

Long Haired Goat

Long Haired Goat

Cute Stairs Above Home

Cute Stairs Above Home

What We Paid: INR USD Euro
– Train from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer 3rd class with AC 525/pp 11.70 8.20
– Private double room in Hotel [private bath, AC, clean] 600/double 13.30 9.40
– Dinner at Trio, a touristy but yummy restaurant 270/pp 6 4.20
– Sandwich + drinks in small sandwich joint 40/pp 0.90 0.62
– Pizza 140/pp 3.12 2.17
– Water 1L 15 0.33 0.23
– Auto rickshaw from and to the train station (10 minutes) 30/ride 0.67 0.47

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

India: Celebrating Happy Holi In Jodhpur

By , May 17, 2011 8:43 am
Welcome To Jodhpur

Welcome To Jodhpur

Without planning it, our trip to Jodhpur coincides with the religious festival called Holi. This is a wonderful treat for us as we get to take part in the colorful and active celebrations that can get out of control.

New Look For Boris

New Look For Boris

Just after one night of being baked in our room, we immediately change hotels and upgrade ourselves to air conditioning. Besides the beating sun, the city is easy to get around and we end up meeting many travelers while having lunch and dinner on the numerous rooftop restaurants.

Our Room With AC!

Our Room With AC!

Without any expectations, our visit to the Mehrangarh Fort ends up being one of the best sights we have visited so far. We begin with a self-guided tour that is nicely done and is actually interesting. We are able to explore a good percentage of the fort and get our money’s worth.

Mehrangarh Fort

Mehrangarh Fort

Peek-A-Boo

Peek-A-Boo

Inside Fort

Inside Fort

Old Carriage

Old Carriage

Love The Window Arches

Love The Window Arches

We even learn how to tie a turban!

Did You Know A Turban Is 6 Meters Long?

Did You Know A Turban Is 6 Meters Long?

Layers Of Twists

Layers Of Twists

Towards the end of the self-guided tour, there is a rest area for tourists. For some reason, people miss the sign or don’t need rest, but this ends up being to our advantage. As we enter through the rest area and out to the balcony, there is a grand view of the blue city and no one else around. Most of the houses of Jodhpur are painted blue to help repel against mosquitoes and help cool the houses. Then come flying above and below us are many raptors. We spend the next hour trying to capture these magnificent birds, but they are so quick that even with the zoom lens, it is difficult.

Birds Flying Right By Us

Birds Flying Right By Us

Magnificent Blue City

Magnificent Blue City

Only If You Could Fly

Only If You Could Fly

Blue Is Cool

Blue Is Cool

Before the festivities of Holi begin, I decide to get some henna art done on my right hand. Since I’m going to pay for the service anyways, I decide to have it done by a teenage boy who is helping to support his family and studies. I ask him to put whatever design he wants but not too many details as I still want to see parts of my hand after. It turns out to be a fun experience as I get to talk to this boy about his family and life in Jodhpur. I’m happy with the turnout of my cool artwork on my arm, but struggle from safeguarding it from getting wet or ruined for the next four hours which means it went away after just one week.

Getting Henna Art

Getting Henna Art

Gets Darker Each Day

Gets Darker Each Day

To understand the holiday a little better, here is one of the many versions of the legend, from what we are told: There was once a bad king by the name of Hiranyakashyap. He forced everyone in his kingdom to worship him and only him. He had one problem, his young son, Pralhad, who defied him and continued to worship Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyap was furious and ordered his sister, Holika, who possessed the power to walk through fire untouched, to step inside a blazing fire while carrying Pralhad. It turns out that she was only immune to fire if she entered it alone. Subsequently, she was burned to ashes while Pralhad, because of his extreme devotion, was saved by Lord Vishnu.

Blazing Fire

Blazing Fire

At the eve of Holi, the celebrations begin. Holika’s burning to ashes is reenacted to mark the victory of ‘good’ over ‘evil’. In Jodhpur, each neighborhood block puts together a bonfire filled with cow dung, flowers, coconut, and grains from the new harvest. The eldest person in the group lights the fire and starts shouting as the rest of the group continues shouting with him. Then all newlyweds and families with a newborn child walk around the fire. Some households then take some of the fire to their house, as it is believed to protect them against diseases. This is repeated at each block with music, dancing, and singing happening all at the same time.

Neighborhood Preparing Bonfire

Neighborhood Preparing Bonfire

Tradition Calls For Smashing Open A Coconut

Tradition Calls For Smashing Open A Coconut

Eldest Shouting

Eldest Shouting

Everyone Enjoys A Great Bonfire

Everyone Enjoys A Great Bonfire

The next morning, the main day of Holi, the streets are filled with people throwing colored powder at each other to wish each other a happy Holi. Others may squirt or even pour colored water on you. The children are relentless so don’t bring your fancy cameras with you. It definitely can get out of control so a few things to be aware of is large groups of young men harassing females and low quality powder that can be harmful.

Watch Out

Watch Out

Streets Are All Purple

Streets Are All Purple

People Are All Purple

People Are All Purple

Teamwork

Teamwork

Happy Holi

Happy Holi

Happy Holi everyone.

Staircase In Fort

Staircase In Fort

The View Below

The View Below

An Old Well

An Old Well

Help Me

Help Me

City Tower

City Tower

Admiring Fort's Architecture

Admiring Fort's Architecture

Well Preserved Room

Well Preserved Room

Bye Bye Blue City

Bye Bye Blue City

What We Paid: INR USD Euro
– Bus From Udaipur to Jodhpur, no AC 200/pp 4.45 3.15
– Private double room at Blue House Guest House [private bath, large room, nicely decorated, AC, clean, recommend] 600/double 13.30 9.40
– Lunch / Dinner on a rooftop restaurant 90/pp 2 1.40
– Henna 50 1.10 0.78
– Fort Mehrangarh entrance fee, student price (incudes audio guide and camera) 200/pp 4.45 3.15
– Rickshaw to the train station (5 minutes) 25/ride 0.55 0.39

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

India: Udaipur, Little Venice Of Rajasthan

By , May 13, 2011 3:32 am
Lake Pichhola By Day

Lake Pichhola By Day

On our last day in New Delhi, both Boris and I get really sick. We narrow it down to one restaurant, which does not have the proper refrigeration and stores their butter in a box, probably filled with tap water. They say your odds of getting sick while in India are high, but we never imagined it would feel so horrible. As our trip must continue, we board the overnight train to Udaipur: “The Venice of the East”.

Still feeling like shit upon our arrival into Udaipur, we just want a really nice hotel and take the first one that fits the category.  We don’t do much except sleep for the next two days. As we are afraid to eat anything that can upset our stomachs again, we stick to a diet of rice and plain naan, which is not so delicious.

This Meal Looks Better Than Ours

This Meal Looks Better Than Ours

The town is set on the edge of three lakes and is considered one of the most romantic cities in India. As we look out onto Lake Pichhola, we see lots of converted luxury hotels and trash. I think the best time to see Udaipur is over an evening dinner at a rooftop restaurant. As the sun starts to disappear, the town lights up and the reflection onto the water is pretty dramatic.

The Venice of the East

The Venice of the East

Taj Lake Palace By Night

Taj Lake Palace By Night

City Palace By Night

City Palace By Night

We start to crave for Indian spices but can’t bare the idea of getting sick again so we stick to eating at popular tourist restaurants. One romantic spot is at the restaurant at Ambrai Hotel. We have no complaints about the food here and the location is unbeatable as it is right across from the City Palace. This place gets filled quickly in the evenings, so it is a good idea to have reservations for the best seats in the house.

Taj Lake Palace By Day

Taj Lake Palace By Day

Me & Frenchie Feeling Better

Me & Frenchie Feeling Better

Enjoying The Views

Enjoying The Views

However, it is one restaurant that has us coming back every day for lunch. On top of Hotel Minerwa is a rooftop restaurant with really good pasta, free wifi, and a friendly staff. The wife of one of the owners’ is originally from Israel (probably the reason why there are so many Israelis here too). Years ago, she was doing a backpacking trip and came to India and was a guest at this very hotel where she met her husband. Needless to say, she fell in love, stayed in Udaipur, and is now having her second child. I’m always amazed at these stories!

Rooftop At Hotel Minerwa

Rooftop At Hotel Minerwa

Rooftop Living

Rooftop Living

One of the fun things to do in Udaipur is to walk as far as you can and jump on a rickshaw if you wander too far. Some of the hotels can get very fancy and don’t bother asking how much it is since it is way out of a backpacker’s budget.

Another favorite spot of ours is the Jagadish Temple. The carvings on the temple alone are something to admire, but it is the singing in the evening that gets us to stick around for hours. Don’t forget to take off your shoes and leave them at the entrance.

Jagadish Temple

Jagadish Temple

Leaving Grain As Offering

Leaving Grain As Offering

Prayer Hall

Prayer Hall

Prayer Doesn't Always Have To Be In Silence

Prayer Doesn't Always Have To Be In Silence

We highly recommend making one overnight stop in Udaipur to see the magic that happens at night.

Something Random About This

Something Random About This

Local Woman At Temple

Local Woman At Temple

Marble And Granite Balconies At City Palace

Marble And Granite Balconies At City Palace

Arches Outside City Palace

Arches Outside City Palace

Door With Spikes

Door With Spikes

Keyhole Shaped Window

Keyhole Shaped Window

Colorful Room Inside City Palace

Colorful Room Inside City Palace

One Of Many Courtyards

One Of Many Courtyards

Lots of Luxury Hotels

Lots of Luxury Hotels

Hanuman Ghat

Hanuman Ghat

Lake Pichhola By Day

Lake Pichhola By Day

What We Paid: INR USD Euro
– Train from New Delhi in 2nd class sleeper with AC 945/pp 21 14.80
– Private double room at Poonam Haveli [private bath, large rooms with stained glass windows, very clean, recommend] 500/double 11 7.80
– Lunch @ restaurant of hotel Minerwa 40/pp 0.89 0.63
– Dinner @ restaurant of Ambrai Hotel 350/pp 7.80 5.50
– Entrance of City Palace 50/pp 1.10 0.78
– Camera fee at City Palace 200 4.45 3.10
– Jagadish Temple 0 0 0
– 1L water bottle 10 0.22 0.15
– Individual Tide washing powder packet 1 0.02 0.01
– Auto rickshaw to bus station (15 minutes) 30/ride 0.66 0.47

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Couple Of The Week: Yours Truly

By , May 11, 2011 4:52 pm

I hope we don’t need any introductions. The couple of the week is Boris and MuiMui. While we were interviewing couples for our weekly couple section, we actually got asked to answer a few questions for Holly, who will be starting her travels in a few months. You can read the original interview on her blog.

MeAndFrenchie

Boris And MuiMui

Relationship Status: | Attached to the hip.
How long have you been together? | Over 3 years.
How long have you been traveling? | 13 months.
How long is your total planned trip? | 12 to 18 months.

What attracted you to traveling in the first place and how did it become a reality?
Boris: I grew up in France and have always been attracted to the US. I finally went there for an internship and loved it. Once I graduated, I immediately found a job in San Francisco. I loved the city so much that I was disappointed to have ended up there before seeing more of the world. One year before our world tour, I told MuiMui that I wanted to move abroad and experience life in a different country. She replied that if she had to leave everything, she wanted to see more of the world. We agreed to go on a world tour together.

MuiMui: My desire for travel grew from loving parents who worked all the time and basically from their lack of travel. In college, I snatched every chance I had to travel outside of the US. Then when I joined the corporate world, travel became my yearly escape. When I met my Boris, he would challenge me whenever I would say, “I wish I could …” so here we are, circling the globe.

How is traveling different from taking a two week holiday?
Boris: Traveling has nothing to with going on holiday. First, you always have to look at your budget to make you can make it to the end of your travel and that you don’t have a bad impact on the populations. Second, traveling is, for us, more oriented towards meeting people and learning cultures than just sightseeing. Last, I would say that when you travel you have to give yourself time to rest and reenergize.

MuiMui: The two do not have to be so different but as a typical American, my short and infrequent holidays seem to dictate how I traveled initially, so I would automatically try to maximize my experience by seeing as much as I can and within the western comforts I am use to. It was when I went to Vietnam for the first time on holiday and explored the small villages and did away with my usual comforts that made me realize how much I was missing out on.

How do you organize world travel among the both of you?
Boris: Before entering a new country we will both do 1 or 2 hours of research and then compare our results. Then with the information, we will try to make an itinerary that would allow us to see most of it within our allocated time frame. Once we arrive in a city, we will start looking together for a place to stay and I usually get tired and let MuiMui find the best deal in town.

MuiMui: A world trip is a lot to take in so with some planning, it makes things a little easier for us and more efficient. We split up the work by who wants to do what. Two things we learned not to do is over plan, leave out some of the small details to be explored together, and for each country, it is good if the both of you read up a little about it as you enjoy a place more if you know more about it.

What did you learn about each other?
Boris: She is extremely good at bargaining and finding deals. She can be very cheap and will get extremely upset if she finds out somebody else got a better deal. No matter how hard it is, if she has decided to go somewhere, she will find a way to get there (and without getting ripped off).

MuiMui: I did not necessarily learn something new about Boris, but the small details I looked passed before the trip were more apparent during the trip. For example, I know he is a nice guy, but I found at times he was being too nice and polite to a stranger in a situation that I did not feel comfortable being in.

Would you do it again? What would you change?
Boris: Yes but after a little break. I would do more research beforehand and visit fewer countries. I would also try to dedicate more time for personal activities like photography walks with locals, cooking lessons, or Spanish classes.

MuiMui: Yes! I feel like this past year was just a taste of more to come. I have more ideas for future trips such as becoming fluent in another language and staying longer in one place.

Any scary stories or low points?!
Boris: Nothing really scary as we never got robbed but if I have to choose a low point, it would be our experience in Indonesia on the road to Mount Bromo: A driver tried to rip us off and then a group of youngsters on motorbikes “saved” us, which was all an organized scam. We were in the middle on nowhere with no other tourists or public transportation around. It took us 3 hours to get out of there.

MuiMui: When we arrived in Arequipa and was looking around for a hotel, we met a female traveler who just experienced an attempted taxi kidnapping the evening before. She was still trembling and emotional and that woke me up how we always have to be careful in any country and as much as we are, shit still happens when there are bad people.

What was your most recurrent disagreement?
Boris: First money, second transportation.

MuiMui: We had one big recurring disagreement which was about when/how to book transportation. We both liked different styles and in the beginning, I would throw tantrums, not knowing I was, when I couldn’t get him to agree with me.

What are your top three tips for anyone thinking about traveling?
Both:
1: Go.
2: Meet as many people as you can.
3: Be open-minded and never reject something because it is different from what you are used to.
4: Always be aware of your surroundings.

Do you have any tips for traveling with your partner?
Boris: One laptop each or no laptop at all. Find some activities that you can do alone (photography, diving, etc). Even if it is easier to stay in your room, try to go out and engage with other people as much as you can; the experience you share is invaluable and not written in any guidebook.

MuiMui: Traveling to new places is both fun and stressful. Doing it with someone else can be even more challenging so work together instead of trying to be right all the time. There is no right or wrong when it comes to saving $0.50. Be more open minded while being safe and meet fellow travelers.

Any do’s and don’ts?
Both:
DO follow your instincts and change your plans.
DO NOT leave your stuff unattended even for a second. When riding on trains or buses, make sure your things are attached to you at all times. It just takes one second of snoozing for your things to be stolen.
DO learn the local language or at least use basic phrases or words.
DO NOT dress up like you would at home when visiting India. Not only will you shock the people, you may encounter constant harassment.
DO try local cuisine away from tourist areas if possible.

Is your traveling experience any different to how you imagined it would be?
Both: Traveling is more tiring than what we thought. It felt like a full time job at times. People are very different from one country to the other. Usually, the less money they have, the more giving they are and the more interested they are to meet you.

What was your favorite country you visited? Why?
Boris: Hard to say but I have 3 places that stand out:
Thailand because we had a marvelous time there. We met extremely nice people and no matter what kind of experience you are looking for (beach, history, culture, food, city, trekking, mountains, villages, etc), Thailand has it all!
Colombia because we went there with some apprehensions and no positive expectations, but the kindness of the people blew us away. Trust me, Colombia is one of the safest countries we’ve been to and you will love both the landscapes and the people.
Galapagos because it is 100% unique. Everyday we would wake up seeing something that you can only see on TV: Giant Turtles, Endemic birds, penguins, iguanas, and etc. Plus walking on islands made of fresh lava (only a few hundred years old) is quite something.

MuiMui: It’s so difficult to pick a favorite as there is something great (and bad) about each country we went to. I think the country that wins for overall ease of travel, variety of things to see and eat, pleasantness of the people and culture, something for everyone, is Thailand. But I will never forget about how wonderful the people in Colombia were, or how out of this world the animals were in the Galapagos, or the penguins hopping onto the beaches of New Zealand, or the colors and sites of India, and … the gastronomy culture and way of life in the south of France.

Finally what’s the best thing about traveling?
Both: We always think that the best thing is to see beautiful and famous places. After coming back, I don’t think that is true anymore. Learning is the best thing that happens when you travel. Meeting people from different cultures will open your eyes on the world and your own life. This is, in our opinion, an invaluable experience.

Panorama Theme by Themocracy