Category Archives: India

Life After the Silent

Before my silent I met a lot of beautiful people with warm energy. On of them was a retired Indian couple who were staying there for a year. The woman put her thumbs up each time we met at the afternoon yoga class, by means of asking if I was still hanging on. After my silent, we finally got to talk again. We were sitting at the table eating dinner. The man has a habit of not talking during dinner. She told me that. But when his wife left the table to wash her plate he suddenly bowed towards me and said: “You are a happy and content man. Stay that way. Don’t let anyone steal your happiness” And then he sat back again, focusing on his dinner like nothing happened. Wow!

During my silent new people checked in at the Ashram. Some wanted to start a conversation with me, but I had to make a hand gesture of zipping my lips together to show them I was in silent. So after my silent I had a lot of long conversations with a lot of people. Guess I had to catch up with not talking for days ;-) Through my final talk with the Swami. I found out I was the first newbee person to do a first silent retreat of seven days at this Ashram. I gave myself a pad on the back for that!! ;-) Hahaha.

The Ashram also had a science lab attached to it. After the silent retreat they measured my brainwaves during meditation which was real fun to see.

I was full of energy and did a lot of things. I went to Vashishta Guhe. A cave alongside the Ganges, which is famous for being a place for great meditation. So guess what I did there? Haha. I also went to the Ashram library to see 300 year old manuscripts written on palm leaves. Some even go back 600 years. I also went to a Ganga Aarti. Every evening, people gather at Parmarth Niketan Ashram (in the Swag Ashram area) to experience the Ganga Aarti, worship of fire. The driver dropped me off and I had to walk over a bridge and through crowds, streets and alleys to find the Aarti. There it was… hundreds of people singing along side a fire at the side of the Ganges, while the sun was setting. A moment to never forget. I even washed my hands in the Ganges. At the end, hundreds of lights are set on the water to drift downstream which is a marvelous sight!

I was lucky to find my way back to the driver. On our way back to the Ashram between the Indian songs, which were probably his private music collection, I suddenly heard: “Hold up, wait a minute let me get some *&#(@@ up in it!” It was a famous Hip Hop track by Dr. Dre called Kush. This driver surprised me! Hahaha. I reacted with excitement! But he reacted a bit ashamed. He quickly switched the song to your typical Hindi music, like I found out about his secret identity haha. This was probably his playlist he played when he was all by himself. ;-) Hahaha.

My days at the Ashram came to an end. I left by taxi, which would pick me up at the Ashram at 4 am midnight. I took my backpack and moved to the reception, which was still closed. There was raining and there was a heavy storm going on. I saw some headlights on the hill in the distance. My taxi! We started driving. The streets where still completely empty. A stark contrast to cacophony of claxons and masses at day time. In the taxi I quickly did my mental routine, to make sure I had everything. These thoughts were running through my head, while at the same time I was having the usual conversation with the driver: Do I have my passport, train ticket with me?… “I’m from the Netherlands”… Do I know the address of my next sleeping place?… “Yeah it’s really a beautiful city”…. do I have my iPad and MacBook with me?… “Yeah Ruud Gullit and Van Basten haha”… My creditcard, bankcards?… “Amsterdam, is nice yeah!”…. Check! I have everything!

Before the driver dropped me off at the train station I would go and visit Har Ki Pauri, a famous ghat on the banks of the Ganges in Haridwar. The storm was still going on heavily. We drove in to a police roadblock. After a fierce argument between my driver and the police we turned around and the driver was cursing in himself. I asked him what was wrong. The police wanted people to pay large sums of money, to pass the roadblock. Like hmmm, that’s also India. We took the long road however. The driver waited for me, while I tried to find my way through the storm, which had turned in to a sand storm at this point. I almost couldn’t see straight, passing the bridge all the way to Har Ki Pauri. The sun was slowly rising and the light of day was making its entrance. I got a “washing of luck” by a guy in white clothing pouring Ganga water over my head. I had a long hourly trip ahead, all the way to Kochi, with this water on my body in which people do there needs and dead bodies are burned. Eeiiieuw!! But they say it’s sacred, so I will be fine… I guess. Haha

The driver dropped me off at the train station in Haridwar. I took the train back to New Delhi, with the dried up Ganga water still on my head, and from there on, I would take a plane to Kochi in the South. The train was an experience! The beautiful landscapes that pass you by reaaaalllyyy sloooowwwlllyyy!! Nice! I wanted to go to the south of India because it is said that the south is completely different from the north. It has even been said that it is nicer and more sophisticated. Hmmm. I was curious!

I arrived in Kochi and…. Wow! Like I was in another country. Clean, asphalted streets, billboards, palm trees, no crowdyness and men in sarongs. I almost thought I was already in Indonesia. And to be honest… the people here are way more nicer than the North (apart from Rishikesh of course ;-))! People just approach you for a talk and kids in the streets give you high five. I stayed in a homestay of a friendly family. I was directly invited to the table of another family who were staying there as guests. We had a fun chat about the upcoming World Cup, Surinam and Indian food. It was good fun. After that I went to bed early, because of all the travelling I had only slept 6 hours total in a period of two days.

The next day, after I slept for more than 16 hours straight, I went to see the famous Chinese fisher nets along the coast. I even helped with pulling one up. You need like six people to pull one up. They sell the fish alongside the boulevard. They even sold shark they had just catched, like wow! And then… then suddenly…. it was time to leave India….   Incredible India!

The Silent Retreat

I took the train from New Delhi to Rishikesh at 5 o’clock in the morning. Rishikesh is situated along the holy river Ganges, about 200 kilometers northeast of Delhi sitting at an elevation of 330 meters, it is considered the doorway to the Himalayas. The Rishikesh area is considered to be sacred as it is believed that meditation at this place leads to the attainment of salvation. There are many temples, some ancient, some new in the Rishikesh area. And for the record Rishikesh is also the place where the Beatles wrote their “White Album”.

I was going to stay in an Ashram to do a 7 day silent retreat, meaning no talking for 7 days. A guy from the Ashram picked me up at the station. When I got off the train I saw someone standing with my name on a plate. You see this on many train stations and airports. It’s quite normal, but to suddenly see your name on a plate between dozens of unknown Indians after an exhausting train ride is still somewhat awkward. Haha. We drove on a bridge across the Ganges river, which Indians call the Ganga, and arrived at this beautiful Ashram. The Ashram looked like the way people depict paradise in images. It had a collection of cottages, surrounded by a perfectly maintained pittoresque garden with a view on the mountains. Wow! I stayed in cottage number 10, in the midst of the premises. The cottage had a kitchen, a bathroom and two bedrooms. The wall was made out of red stones, which gave it a monastery feel. I thought I had the cottage to myself, but I was not alone. I was kept company by ants, crickets and other small unrecognizable creatures on the floor. The walls where full of jumping spiders and I even had a permanent roommate underneath the sink closet, the gecko! He sometimes appeared quickly from under the sink closet to sunbath for a few minutes next to the window.

The Ashram was established by a famous Swami. And what makes this Ashram stand out, is that they mix spirituality with science. Coincidental the Ashram also had a link with Surinam. The swami had lived there for years. And the Indian people in Surinam brought the Himalaya yoga, as it is called, to the Netherlands. Funny! So when they heard that my roots where in Surinam everyone got excited.

I was welcomed by the head of education. Before I could do the silent I had to follow a three day course about yoga, meditation, diaphragmatic breathing and more. He asked me my name. “Frans”, I said. He didn’t understand how to pronounce it. I told him “It’s easy, just like the country, France.” “Ooooh, now I understand. France!!”, he said. He explained me about the Ashram. I had to follow a strict daily program which consisted of morning prayer at 5 o’ clock, Joints & Glands Exercises from 5:15 to 7:00, Breathing practices from 7:00 to 7:30, Meditation from 7:30 to 8:30, Breakfast from 8:40 to 9:30 etc. etc. the program ended at 9 o’ clock in the evening. Like.. wow!! He recommended a good book to read before my silent. As if I had enough spare time with this program Haha. I could borrow the book from his library. He would write my name down, so he would remember who had the book. And then I seriously saw him writing down my name as “Spain”. Lol!! Hahaha I told him it was the other country Hahaha.

The next day we started with the morning prayers and after that we did the Joints & Glands exercises workout. The teacher spontaneously improvised by starting with a fast paced walk through the area. We followed and all giggled because it must have looked really silly, but on the other hand walking like that through this magnificent place full of lovely nature, singing birds and a view on the mountains while the sun is slowly rising also feels special. I loved the hatha yoga classes in the afternoon. During the hatha yoga classes I also found out how stiff I was hahaha. I just couldn’t get the lotus position right. During the evening meditation we sat in that pose for one hour. I needed two extra rolled up blankets for support hahaha.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner were consumed at fixed hours in the dining hall. The food was completely vegetarian. Not even chicken or fish. Ah well.. you get used to it. One day we heard someone running over the plastic, corrugated roof of the dining halls’ outbuilding, which made a real loud noise. Everyone stopped eating and stared. Who was that!!!? We found out it was a large Macaque. Wow! The culture shock keeps continuing ;-) Hahaha.

I met with the swami who would be my mentor during the silent. He told me that as a newbee I could do a maximum of three days silent. I was shocked! I told him that I had planned to do a seven day silent. He laughed. “Most beginners crack in to tears after two days”, he said “but ok… let’s first start with three and then see if you can handle more.” People who know me, know that telling Frans he is not able to do something is the best way to make me really want to do that something. I said: “Ok” However… I thought: “I’m definitely doing the seven days!!!” Hahaha. We talked a bit about the silent retreat. He told me I should have as less distraction as possible. This meant keeping reading and writing to a minimum. Keeping a small log and reading for an hour a day is ok, but no more than that. And also if I really needed to communicate with him during the silent, I could do so by paper. Also I didn’t have to follow the strict program when in silent #luckyme. I saw some people in silent walking around in a white Khadi, so I asked him about the dress code during my silent. He gave me the best answer possible: “Just be your self. Come as you are” We agreed that my silent would start at 6:30 the next morning.

The day before my silent it was a full moon and it felt kind of special.

The first day went well, pretty easy even. I only had to suppress some sounds  one makes out of a habit. I followed the hatha yoga classes and attended the evening meditation and sat alone in my cottage for hours. Just me and my thoughts, knowing the next 7 days I wasn’t going to communicate with anyone. Also the prediction of a nervous breakdown on day two or three was hanging above my head, but I was determined!

The second day I was prepared for any surprise. I’ve been told a crying fit could emerge out of nothing, but when the Swami saw me that day at the dining hall, he walked up to me. “I can already see you are strong enough. Go for the seven days! I will be out of town and will be back the day you are finished” I’m not sure if he told me to go for the full length because he saw that I showed no signs of breaking down or because it came in handy for him and his agenda. Lol! Hahaha. Either way I was going for it!

Eventually the surprise came… but not in the form of a crying fit. The toilet tap in my bathroom sprung causing a little flood in the bathroom. I was like.. Really!? Now!? I kept calm and managed to shut down the main tap. After a few hours I could open the main tap again and everything was back to normal. Luckily! That night a incessantly stream of birds were flying over from the Himalaya’s. It must have been thousands of birds, because it took for ages and it was real special and calming to look at.

I was getting used to not talking. I did my daily yoga, having a tea with milk and sugar prior to it, eat three times a day, did some contemplative walking, meditation and returned to my cottage. I started paying attention to my room mates ;-). The ants were my flour cleaners. I saw them moving a piece of peanut, I accidently dropped on the floor, all the way to their shelter. Me and the gecko beneath the kitchen sink, became friends Hahaha. I stopped chasing him, instead just let ‘m get his sunshine now and then. He would go after the flying spiders on the wall for me. A cat showed up at the porch of my cottage. I gave it some food. It kept showing up almost each evening.

The cottage had a peaceful feel to it. Also at night. It is quite an experience, alone with your thoughts and no one to share them with. The thoughts keep on flowing. Long forgotten memories show up.

After a few days I was really at peace. My mind was empty. I lived in the now. It felt like a vacation in a vacation. This sounds crazy, but during this trip I have constantly been busy arranging flights, hostels, laundry, sight seeing, getting to know the next city, meet new people, exchange new currency etc. most of it really fun, but still exhausting at times. Now I just did… well… nothing. I only had to make sure to sleep, eat and drink, do the laundry and follow some classes. But it wasn’t all a bed of roses. I also felt real homesick at times and after all these days of vegetarian food I was craving for a medium tenderloin steak soooo bad!! (I told no one, because they would kill me, especially in the land of the holey cow!). But still… these were just relatively minor inconveniences.

Every night there was something going on, on the banks of the Ganges. Chanting, drums, people. I could hear it in the distance, while lying in my bed, but I could not go there because I was in silent and mostly it was for local people. One day I did however went for a long walk of a few kilometers to the befriended Ashram. It was really relaxing. Only when a guy on a scooter started talking to me it took some time for him to realize I was in silent. He first thought I had some hearing problems. Awkward situation!

The seven days went by fairly quickly. I learned a lot during the silent and I would advice everyone to do it. I only sinned one time, when I couldn’t catch any sleep and then suddenly a mosquito started to zoom in my ear. I cursed at the mosquito, whispering, but not even finishing the word. That was the only sound I had made during those seven days. No nervous breakdowns, no crying fits… guess I’m pretty balanced emotionally :-) Hahaha.

Back to Delhi

They say the India experience is not complete without some proper effect of the food on your stool if you know what I mean ;-). It took a while, but eventually also I was not resistant against the dark corners of Indian food. I experienced the most horrible Indian toilet that will stay permanently on my mind. It was a toilet on the road back to New Delhi. I asked the driver to stop, because I really needed to go to the toilet for a number two. He stopped at a restaurant alongside the road. I rushed to the toilet with a roll of toilet paper. I opened the door and saw a hole in the ground on one side. Flies swarmed around the hole. On the other side a saw a familiar western toilet, but is was filled to the nock with… well… doodoo! Like iiiieeeeeuuuuww!!!! I felt like neo in the matrix. Will I take the blue or the red pil? But in this case they both lead down a bad path. Hahaha. I don’t remember anymore how I did it, but I managed.

We arrived in New Delhi with our driver and had to pay him. Prior to the trip we agreed on 20 Rps a kilometer and 200 Rps for each night. We did 750 kilometer and we also stayed some extra nights without travelling. So this meant 750 x 20 Rps for the driving and 200 Rps per night. Easy calculation! Suddenly there was a minimum fee of 150 kilometers a day. So this meant that if you don’t use the car for a few days, which we did, you still have to pay this minimum, which meant paying 3000 Rps a day for not using a car. Sounded strange to us and we were not told this. Another scam? Not again!! Hahaha. We ended up arguing with the driver, his manager and the whole tourist bureau. Eventually after argueing for ages, we met each other halfway, but the good vibes between us and the driver were completely gone. But hey, thats India! Haha.

One custom of Indian men I can’t leave out is the clearance of their throat and nostrals all the time. They seem to spit a lot and don’t hesitate to make a loud sound, while doing it. I say to each his own, but please dont do it 2 seconds after you hand over my delicious, slimey, green curry. Hahaha I had this at a restaurant, you must have a real strong appetite to eat after that.

In New Delhi we visited the Lotus Temple. A Bahá’í House of Worship notable for its flowerlike shape. If you look it up on a map, you can see that even the garden is built in the form of a lotus flower. To get there you have to take of your shoes and walk barefoot on a carpeted stairs, all the way up to the temple. But the smell that was coming from this carpet was horrific!! Hahaha. Imagine thousands of different, indian smelly feet, multiplied with the days of the year and the fact that I’m sure this carpet is never washed you get my grip on what your nose has to go to. Hahaha. But it was more then worth it! When you enter the temple it silences you! A real special experience!

Finally we decided to visit the Gandhi memorial, which is the place where he was assasinated. We asked a new driver to take us to the Gandhi memorial. Strangely enough he didn’t know exactly where it was, but then we saw the signs along the road saying Ghandi Memorial. We followed the signs, got out and followed alongside the crowd in to the building. But inside the building we only saw pictures of an Indian woman, with a lot of history about her, but no signs of Ghandi. Soon we found out that there is also an Indira Gandhi, the first female prime minister who has also been assasinated and also has a memorial. Wrong memorial, but still special. Wow!

We got to the Mahatma Gandhi memorial, which was just a few minutes driving. It was impressive, but strangely enough less crowded. You could see his room where he spent the last minutes and on the floor they layed out his footsteps of his last route. You can follow these footsteps from this room all the way to the garden where they suddenly stop.. on the place where he was assassinated. If that doesn’t bring shivers through your spine, you need to check your nerve system. Greatness!

I had some trouble getting a train ticket for Rishikesh. All the trains were fully booked. I had only one chance to score a ticket and that was by going to the train station in person and go to the foreigner desk. They always save some seats for way too optimistic foreigners who think they can book their Indian train ticket three days in advance. Lol! The hotel staff warned me about scams, so I was prepared. They explained us the exact location of the foreigner desk. “Entrance, first floor on your left”. And luckily they did, because more than once, guys offered us to show us the way to the foreigner desk and tricking us in to going in to their own desk and buy tickets with them which are way more expensive and even false. One guy really topped it off. He tried to convince us that the tourist office moved outside of the train station a while ago. It moved to a white building at the other end of the street. He was more than happy to take us there. Yeah.. and I have crazy written on my forehead. Hahaha. I got the tickets at the real foreigner desk. Jeeja!!

My companion for two weeks was going to leave. I am on my own again. Heading for my silence retreat in the Ashram…

The Golden Triangle

We decided to do the Golden Triangle. The Golden Triangle is a route that consists of three remarkable cities in North India. New Delhi, our starting point, Agra, famous for the Taj Mahal and Jaipur, the Pink city. We had a private driver who accompanied us all those days and drove us to all the spots. I thought it was way to decadent, but soon found out that it is just common practice here in India. Our driver was a mild man in his 50’s with the physique of a teenager. Of course contrary to what the tourist agency told us, his english was as good as my french. And believe me, my french is not good, despite what my name would suggest Hahaha And more so, we could have also learned some Hindi before getting here ;-) LOL! Our communication stretched no further than: “next location,” “pickup time tomorrow” and “how he slept yesterday”, but it was enough and you don’t only need words to communicate. However, the situation became quite strange when we arrived in Agra and he suddenly told us to put the sunscreens on the windows to make us less visible from outside and then tried to explain us that we should tell the police he is a friend, not a taxi driver, if they stopped us. It took us five minutes to understand. Normally it would raise a serious eyebrow, but we already went through so much, this didn’t seem strange anymore. Luckily however we weren’t stopped by the police.

In Agra we went to the Taj Mahal. We were accompanied by a guide, who spoke English fluently and knew a lot about the history. After this I would never visit a great work of art without a guide!! I fell in love with the Taj Mahal. I have seen it on pictures many times, but when it suddenly appears in your sight, while you are walking to it and having some small talk with the guide, the whole conversation falls still. He explained us that it was build with translucent marble giving it it’s shining glow. Especially with full moon. The flowers which seem to be painted around the entrance are actually inlay stones from Iran, Zimbabwe and other countries. This inlay craft, was only mastered by a few. Untill this day, the descendants of these craftsmen, still use the same technique. And one of the red stone types they use in this inlay, lights up when light shines on it. It was magical when the guide showed us this when we went inside. It was dark and when he moved his flashlight over the inlay stone flowers, only the red flowers lit up. Mythical!

The story of the Taj Mahal is that of love. An emperor building it out of love for his wife. Who doesn’t know it? But I didn’t know that the emperor made sure the hands of the architects and other specialists who designed the Taj Mahal where chopped of, so they could never design something as beautiful again. He later on, also wanted to build a black Taj Mahal opposite to the white one, to symbolize his pain, grieving the loss of his wife. His son, thinking his father went crazy spending too much money on his crazy plan, imprisoned him in a palace with a view on the Taj Mahal. We went to the site where the prison was. They call it “The Land of Nowhere”, because no one can escape from there. From within you could see the watch towers left and right. The fort was surrounded by a garden which used to be full of wild animals including tigers. The garden was surrounded by water which was filled with crocodiles. Nowadays the watch towers are unmanned, the garden and the pond are arid and dry, but if you try to imagine how it must have looked like, it is a crazy sight. In Agra I also developed a deep respect for carpet makers. We went to a workshop where they make handcraft carpets. The owner explained us the craft. Each point you see on the carpet is soleley notted by the carpet maker. Imagine me filling a computer image pixel by pixel. After that the carpet undergoes a whole process of brushing and finalization to make the colors come out even more. He even helt a fire to the back of the carpet to show us it doesn’t catch fire. These carpets are really indestructible and will keep their quality for decades. Impressive!!

The next day we went to Jaipur, which is called the Pink city. And when we arrived we understood why. A part of town is completely in pink. It is even been said that you have to pay taxes if you don’t paint your house pink. There is a good incentive for ya ;-) Hahaha Lol! Before we entered Jaipur we stopped at Patepur Sekdi. We were jumped by kids who tried to sell us things. During our stay in India we came across a lot of guys trying to sell us things, but these guys where nearly ten and stunningly battered “Hello sir, where you from?” “Oh, Holland? Nice country. I know Amsterdam. I got a friend in Amsterdam.” “Look in to my eyes sir… Look in to my eyes! You see these eyes? Remember these eyes. Remember this face. When you come back sir, buy something from me, promised? Promised!?” I must admit I was intimidated Hahaha. Imagine these guys at their twenties. They would sell you icecream in the winter. I didn’t make a promise however, but couldn’t resist to buy a small thing when I came back. We entered the Patepur Sekdi. I had to wear a cloth around my waste, because you are not allowed to wear short pants above knee level. And like everywhere in India you had to take off your shoes. Walking on the hot stones, barefoot we came to find out that we were walking amongst ancient grave tombes. It felt a bit macabre walking with your bare feet, between tombes with decayed mummified people. We even attended a ceremony.

After that we arrived in Jaipur, where we first went to the Amber Palace where they sacrifice a goat each day at 5 o’clock sharp. The painted flowers on the walls are more that 500 years old and still intact. It is vegetable paint, each color made of a certain plant, vegetable or fruit. Amazing! At the exit of the palace there was an Indian guy with a flute and a basket from which a hypnotized cobra emerged. How stereo type can you go Hahaha. It was a real cobra. The man invited me to touch it. I freaking did! And I’m still alive. ;-) Haha. After that we went to the City palace where the royal family resides. This palace has the greatest silver jar in the world. It is even recorded in the Guinness World Record book. Within the palace is the Jantar Mantar, an Astronomical instruments and obervatory. The instrumensts all still work. The guide explained us how we could read the time from one of the instruments. I checked it on my watch and the instrument was totally accurate. Wow!! We concluded our stay in Jaipur with the Jal Mahal, a palace located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake.

Oh and how can I forget to tell you about the best sales man I have ever seen. We were in a shop that sold blankets and shawls. He looked like the Indian version of Ricky Gervais, with an obviously fake toupee. We were negotiating a price for the things we bought. When we told ‘m our offer he put the back of his hand to his forehead like he was playing a strucked man in a classical play of Odysseus. Then he got himself together. Looking at the floor, sighed, rubbed away a fake tear with his hand and then with a sad voice, he continued: Ok, because my heart is really with you, I will make you a special, once in a lifetime offer only. Like a magician introducing his assistent, he raised his left hand and ordered one of the boys behind the desk to bring him his instrument. His calculator. He typed the magical numbers. Sighed again and slowly turned the calculator towards us, showing us his offer like he had just signed for his own death. Of course we didn’t fell for this show, but decided to cut him some slack because of the outstanding performance. Hahaha Lol!

That night when we were in the hotel we heard loud music and fireworks. The sounds were getting louder and louder. We went outside to find out that a wedding ceremony was going on. A parade of happy, dancing people, musicians, drums, horses, fireworks, colored powder..  a complete spectacle! Nice to experience!

We decided to stay a bit longer and added another city to our trip. Sariska. Home of the infamous Tiger Reserve. We arrived at our hotel, which was situated in a really nice garden with swiming pool and green birds. An oase after all the crowdyness. We took a day off from all the activities and just layed alongside the pool, relaxing and reading a book. The internet wasn’t working and I couldn’t resist to fix it. #nerdalert ;-) Hahaha. That day it suddenly started to rain after all those days of blistering heat. We found toads beside our hotel room, which resided in a yard. The hotel had a pretty good restaurant and I was hooked to their pancakes. We ordered 5 portions at a time. The waiters looked at us like, what’s wrong with these guys!? Hahaha. The restaurant walls were filled with gecko’s… real ones! Despite that we ate there everyday. At one day however the waiters got in a little argument with each other. We didn’t know what it was about, because they screamed at each other in Hindi. Suddenly they started attacking each other, ended up in a fist fight and grasping. After a few seconds the peace returned. Our eyes were still big, like what just happened!!?, when one of them turned up at our table, still out of breath, taking our order: “Can I help you sir?” I asked him: “Are you ok!?” He replied with the typical Indian nod and took our order. Wow!

We somehow got this bad idea to leave our moustache. I don’t really have an explanation. Don’t really ask, just take notice Lol!! Hahaha

On my way from our room to the restaurant I was constantly attacked by a big, white dog who belonged to a family that was staying in a room next to the restaurant. I’m not really afraid of dogs, but when this large fellow comes running up to you from a distance barking loudley you can’t help to jump up. Hahaha. And he only did it with me. The bad thing was that the best internet reception was in the restaurant, so I had to be there often. Sometimes at night he was asleep, I could see him from a distance, and I tried to walk silently. But as soon as I almost got to the door of the restaurant he snuck up from behind with a large sprint and a loud bark and I jumped up again. And I hear his boss say the typical: “He likes you and just wants to play” Like really!!??

We went to the Tiger reserve, which claims to have 9 tigers and 15 leopards?? On our way a large group of monkeys blocked the road for a while. Like I told you before, they are everywhere. We entered the park with a jeep and already within 10 minutes we saw a tiger. The jeep had no protection, but the guide explained us that this wasn’t necessary because the tiger sees the jeep and the people in it as one large animal. Too large for it to attack. We stunningly took pictures. Strangly enough, even the guide took pictures, like he doesn’t see a tiger as often also. But what’s that there on the picture? A collar? Hmm, maybe the tiger wasn’t as wild as we thought. Hahaha

Before we left I wanted to take a picture with a monkey that was sitting on a little wall. I got close.. and closer… Sander took a picture. I moved even closer.. and closer…. suddenly the monkey tried to attack me. I jumped back and almost stumbled. These guys are not to mess with Hahaha.

The next day we would head back to New Delhi for the final part of the Triangle. Off we go!

The Culture Shock

Out of all countries I visited untill now, India gave me the greatest culture shock. It is so complex, so diverse and really different from anything else I have seen untill now. First of all, it was hot, really hot. Between 40 and 45 degrees. It was dry season. Yellow green rickshaws trying to find their way through the heavy traffic. And in India unlike in the west they honk, just to notice other drivers of their presence. So you constantly here honks everywhere. Because of this they even introduced silence zones in some parts of the city, where it is prohibited to honk. Like wow! Apart from a rickshaw here and there, we did most local transportation by taxi. And don’t be surprised when suddenly through all this traffic you see a large, imposing, creature, slowly passing by. An elephant! And then a few meters down the way a camel. Indian music bumping out of the taxis’ shrill sounding speakers. The driver suddenly stops and tries to manoeuvre around a cow that is just standing in the middle of the road causing traffic, because of course they are holey creatures here in India. Even the Mc Donalds in India only serves Mc Chicken and Mc Fish filet. No burgers! Hahaha. Really! I found out when I tried to order and didn’t see any burger on the menu. Sitting in the taxi it is also a wonder we never had an accident. One driver was even ghost riding on a part of the high way in the evening, while we were sitting in the back looking at each other, like, is this really happening?

One time we were driving behind a truck with three black oxes, all squashed together. One was laying on it’s knees gasping for air, while he was squashed down by the other two and was slowly dying. It was a horrible sight. The taxi driver simply told us, that these where not holey creatures, because they were no cows and they mostly die during transportation. I’m no animal activist, but this is terrible! Like… wow!!

The city is very dusty and full of smog. So bad that when you make a picture at night using flash, you see the particles light up on your picture. The streetscape is full of people. Every where people. All sorts of people. All busy with something. Selling things in their shops, driving, walking, spitting, running, yelling and even shaving.. yeah you can get a fresh cut, just on the street, bicycles with dozens of boxes stacked on them, a woman driving a motor on the highway with a baby in her one hand and driving with the other. Wow! Unfortunately the streets are filled with a lot of poverty as well. It is not uncommon to see someone suffering from polio walk by with floppy limbs or elephantiasis (elephant’s leg), a lot of dirt and waste on the streets, even people who made homes out of this waste material, more animals, hogs, donkeys and a lot… I mean a lot of monkeys. And then there is the smell. A warm, thick, deep, sour smell that sometimes suddenly grasps your nose. At times this is mixed and made bearable by the smell of burning compost or incense.

Seeing all this things really make you feel greatful for our situation back home. It also makes you realize how unfairly devided the world is. At the same time this is only the first curtain of India you see. If you dare to look behind the curtain there is also a lot of beauty, splendor, history and magnificence to the country where all religions coincide! India! The word alone carries so much weight. The slogan “Incredible India” is really applicable, but then in the good and the bad way. India is incredible and unbelievable at the same time. In dutch we only have one word for these two words… “Ongeloofelijk!”

The Wrong Indian Chain

I arrived in New Delhi in the evening. Sander, a friend, who was going to join me for two weeks on my journey in India, would arrive at night. My plan was to check in at the hotel, where we already made a reservation, and pick him up later with a taxi. I took a trustworthy airport taxi, with a fixed price. After 10 minutes of driving, the taxi driver asked again for the address. I showed him my paper with the address on it. Suddenly he didn’t know where the address was, it seemed to be an incomplete address. He offered to call the Hotel for me to ask for directions. After a short Indian conversation he hung up saying the hotel was closed, all the bookings were cancelled because it was election time and of course he knew just the perfect Hotel for me. All my alarm bells started ringing!! I had heard about this scam already and wasn’t going to fall for it. I knew they where just trying to lure me to another hotel where they get some kind of commission. After I refused to go to the other hotel he offered to drop me off at the New Delhi Tourist information. My plan was to get a normal taxi there and get to my hotel. However at the Tourist information they told me te same story. I insisted to call the hotel myself, dialing the number my self. Only after I spoke to someone from the hotel confirming the story, I believed it. I went to their recommended hotel. Later on I picked up Sander from the airport with a taxi that was arranged by the Tourist information and everything seemed well. It was a bit strange however, that each time we tried to leave the hotel someone linked to the Tourist information was waiting at our service for us to guide us, drive us etc. We noticed every time we left, they informed the Tourist information and slowed us down with chit chat until someone from the Tourist information arrived. I listened to my gut-feeling and decided to send an email to our initial hotel, just for some extra double checking.

The next morning I got a mail back that they where open 365 days a week and that we were mislead by the taxi driver. Wow! We immediately decided to book a new hotel and get the hell out of this complot. However, things got ugly when we really wanted to get out. All sorts of people trying to get us back to the maffia Tourist information. When I wanted to check out we were offered a discount if we would go to the Tourist information and get a coupon. I thanked for the offer and said that I don’t want the discount. Then suddenly I could not pay at the hotel desk, only pay at the Tourist information. When I refused, the guy called the manager of the Tourist information and handed me the phone to talk to him. I explained I just wanted to pay at the hotel and didn’t need any discount. When the price of the hotel was suddenly increased by 1000 Rupies and he would only speak to the white guy, meaning my friend, I started to loose my temper. Like seriously!!!?? I stopped all communication, went back to the room, we booked the new hotel which would pick us up from there and took a chance by putting the initial agreed amount of cash on the desk of the reception and just walk out. Luckily no one tried to stop us. Guess we were convincing ;-) Hahaha I skyped the newly booked hotel with my iPad, still using the wifi of the old hotel Haha. A few moments later a taxi arrived to bring us to the new hotel. Completely paranoid, we didn’t trust it and asked if he knew the name of the hotel we where going to. He didn’t! Seemed our paranoia wasn’t misplaced. He was also in the complot and part of the Tourist information maffia. Finally our real taxi arrived and we got in to this over the top 5 star, swimming pool, spa, resort behind gates. Hahaha. We thought we deserved it! ;-) I later found out that we were in a wrong chain. A chain is a network of taxi drivers, hotels and tourist booking agencies that all work together. They try to lure fresh, new tourist meat in to there chain as soon as they get of the plane. There are some good chains though, we were just unlucky to start of in a bad one. And this is just the short version. Hahaha