The Full Moon Party

The Full Moon Party, a once in a lifetime experience they say. Every month during full moon it is held at the beach of Haad Rin on the Thai island Koh Phangan. The trip from Singapore to Koh Phangan was exhausting. At 22:10 I flew from Singapore to the old Bangkok International Airport “Don Mueang”. I arrived at 23:25, but my next flight would departure the next day at 6:50. I waited for hours and slept maybe two. The plane I took at 6:50 arrived at Nakhon Si Thammarat Airport at 8:00 in the south of Thailand. From there I had to take a two and an half hour bus ride up to the Donsak Pier. Arriving at the Donsak Pier at 10:30 I had to wait for another two and an half hours for the ferry to Koh Phangan. There was a long line to get on to the very. I was already exhausted, waiting with my backpack in the hot, fiercely shining sun. I got on the ferry at 13:00. I was so tired I couldn’t even get any sleep on the ferry. Then I finally arrived at Haad Rin,  Koh Phangan Island at 15:00. From the pier I took a little bus to the center. I was dropped of in the middle of a road, which should be near to my hostel. I walked around for half an hour to ask people for directions, but nobody seemed to know the hostel. I sat down at this cafe where a man and two women, one of which worked there, had a lively conversation. I asked them about the hostel. They also didn’t know it, however the man offered to call the hostel. They were coming to pick me up, he said after he hung up the phone. Thank God! Haha. A woman on a scooter arrived shortly. The reason no one knew about the hostel, was because it was a really new hostel. However it was just behind the main street where we were. I could finally lay down in bed and take some rest. That is what a normal person would do after such a Spartan trip. Guess I’m not that normal ;-) Hahaha. Instead of going to sleep, I put my stuff in the hostel, rented a scooter and toured the island. #crazy!

I didn’t notice anything of the restlessness in the country, but then again the curfew for Koh Phangan and the rest of the touristic spots had been lifted already. It was the 11th and I thought the Full Moon party was going to be on the 13th so I had some time to take rest. But noooo!!! The party was scheduled for the 12th the next day!! Guess I hadn’t been looking at the right agenda. I ate shark that night. Just because it was possible Hahaha. Then went to sleep. The next day, still feeling a bit exhausted, everyone was getting ready for the Full Moon party. There was a muggy atmosphere on the island. Across the whole island you could buy the famous buckets. A bucket filled with little bottles of strong liquor, soda and red bull, which you have to mix your self. I met a group of people at the hostel and we naturally formed a group to hang out at the Full Moon party. Three guys from Dubai, a girl and a Chinese Guy from England, called Lilian and Alan and another guy from England called Peter. At the streets we bought some UV color body paint. This special paint glows brightly under blacklight and UV light. We painted our own and each others bodies with all sorts of creative figures that came to mind. Besides the normal buckets there were also the Giant buckets, which were just the size of buckets people use to put the mop in for cleaning their house. The Egyptian guy from Dubai lost a bet and had to go for the big bucket. I decided to join him. Why? Because it was possible ;-). The big bucket contained a bottle of vodka, a bottle of sprite, 8 energy drinks and a lot of ice cubes. These were accompanied by a pack of long straws. I mixed it all up and put the straws in the brewage. The giant buckets drew a lot of attention. People pointed at them, spontaneously came up to us to take a zip from one of the straws, people taking pictures with us. It was just straight up silly. We joked about drinking the whole bucket. Of course we weren’t gonna drink it all, it was just for fun. After only a few minutes sand from the beach and paint from your body gets in to the bucket, so we quickly abandoned them. The party was amazing! Loud music, beach, fire, happy, crazy people, UV body paint. The whole scene was like a dream. However I cut my too on some glass at the beach. Nothing serious really, but luckily an English guy and his wife helped me to put some bandage on it. The next evening I went to eat something. I had to get my ferry that night. In the restaurant I met James and James from England as well. They were funny. We had a good click, talked about our travels and bet on a song that was playing in the restaurant. Was it the Spice Girls or not? Me and James lost to James. Lol! We ended up singing along to the song, all three of us! Hahaha. Crazy! Holand was plaing its’ first World Cup match against Spain. I checked the current match status. 1-0 for Spain. “Hmm is the Netherlands going to loose their first match”, I thought. and then I checked out at the Hostel. It was night time and I took a motorcycle taxi to the Thong Sala Pier where my ferry would departure. But before that I decided to go to a small hospital to have my too checked. Nothing serious luckily. Only some dead skin. I had to have it checked daily at the hospital. While sitting at the back of the motorcycle going up and down hill in the night past some astonishing scenery I realized, that I haven’t even looked up to see the Full Moon during the party. However I guess it is safe to assume it was there :-) Lol! Hahaha.


The Merlion

Singapore, the only thing I knew about it was that it was really neat, tidy and clean, and that they have an awesome, efficient public transport. I only stayed in Singapore for one night. I took the MRT from the airport to my hostel. The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) is the main public transport and has a daily ridership of over 2 million. It is “mass” and it also is quite “rapid”, but I expected it to be more of a Star Trek like high tech experience Hahaha, which it really wasn’t.

When I took the taxi, I got this frustrated taxi driver. We got to talk and then he asked me: “What are you doing here!? Why do you want to come here!?” I was like: “Sorry?” “Yeah, Singapore is no good anymore. The government is corrupt they all fill their own pockets. I hate it here you know. How long are you gonna stay?” “Only one night”, I reassured him. “Good. That is more than enough!” Wow, what a great PR for the country. Luckily he was an exception, I later found out.

I went to the Marina Bay Sands. Here they have a large building with a big Boat on top which you can see from a distance. Quite impressive. At night there is a big Light Show and you can see the supertrees. I rushed to see the Light Show one night, but when I arrived I just saw the last couple of seconds. Colored lights, a hologram of singing people and lasers. These few seconds alone gave me a good impression of how amazing it must have been. I also visited the supertrees. These uniquely designed tree-like structures, vertical gardens of 25 to 50-metres tall have large canopies that provide shade in the day and come alive with an exhilarating display of light and sound at night. Wow! To get there I had to walk through this enormous, multi story, over the top, decadent Shopping Mall with all kinds of high end brands for display. The mall even featured a river on the ground floor, fully in Venetian style, including the gondolas. Seriously! It was so over the top, I couldn’t help but to play my cheesy 80ies playlist on my iPod while I wandered to this immense sight. And to be honest it is an experience though.

In the hostel I met a local guy called Wan. His parents went on a vacation and locked the door while he was away from home and his house keys were inside the house. He couldn’t get in the house and decided to stay in the hostel for a few days. Like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone… strange story hahaha, but we all gave him the benefit of the doubt. And mostly because he really was a nice guy! He showed me and some other people from the hostel around town the next day. We got to see another face of Singapore. We went to Sentosa where they have the Universal Studios and a super large candy store. The candy store h

Luwak, Rice Terraces, Hot Springs and Waterfalls

The next day I went with a driver to do some sight seeing. We did a coffee tasting north of Bali. There I tasted Coconut coffee, Vanilla coffee, Ginsen coffee, Balinese coffee and also some teas like Lemongrass tea, Ginger tea, Tumarec tea, Mangosteen tea. The Ginger tea tasted like Surinam “Gember Bier”, but then warm. I tasted some Rosela  and some real chocolate cacao without sugar as well. And believe me, whithout sugar it has nothing to do with the chocolate milk as we know it hahaha. All of the substances were good for some part or organ of your body. One type of coffee was good for the heart another type of tea was good for the stool, yet again another one was good for the blood circulation etc. I guess I am a very healthy man now. Lol! But… the main character of the coffee tasting show, was… the Luwak coffee. The Luwak, a cat-like creature, selects the best berries to eat, in his stomach enzymes seep into the beans, it then poops out the beans and they make coffee out of that. Luwak coffee, unlike the Balinese coffee has low caffeine, but still Balinese coffee tastes like water after you drank the Luwak coffee.

We visited Bedugul where we went to the Pura Ulundanu Beratan Temple. The Tree scandia (Balinese singing) on the background gave it a special feel. I noticed that all of the temples in Bali have a splitting gate. Like the entrance is made out of one piece of stone carving, which was then horizontally split in half to create an entrance. I asked the driver about this. He explained me that it has a symbolic meaning. When you pass the splitting gate, you also have to split your personality in the good and bad side. And leave your bad side behind. Many entrances to buildings have this type of gate and even each village has one. Wow! Impressive!

We went to Munduk a place you visit only for the view, but did I say only!? I fel in love with the view. Green hills and rice terraces. We drove past clove and mango trees on the way and each view is more beautiful than the other. I will definitely come back to this one.

After that me and the driver were getting a bit hungry and wanted some Satay. According to my driver the Goat satay was the best. Kambing as they call it. We didn’t managed to find a place were they sold it, but because we were close to the Banjar Hotsprings I decided to first plunge in to the natural Banjar hotspring and look for the satay afterwards! It was nice! I saw this one in travel programs a lot. Funny to actually be there now. After that we continued our search for satay. The driver told me to look for smoke. As we were driving up and down hill through villages, we focused for any signs of smoke alongside the road. At this point we both had one common goal: Satay! Haha. Finally I saw some smoke. Satay! Unfortunately we had to settle for chicken Satay, but it was no punishment, actually it was really good. The only thing I noticed is that the satays here have tiny little meat on them. So even after ten satays a was left still a bit hungry.

Next stop, the Git Git waterfalls. The driver informed me that there was a guide at that place who would bring you to the waterfall, but you had to negotiate the price with him. I asked him what was like reasonable. He said 100.000 is too much. As soon as I put my foot on the ground I was approached. This guide offered to show me all the three waterfalls for only 150.000 each. So this means 450.000!? And wasn’t there only one waterfall? Wow, this guy was really insulting my intelligence Hahaha. After some firm negotiation he offered to show me two waterfalls for 100.000. Then I figured that I came to see the one big waterfall and you can’t even swim in the other one. I finally said I’d do one for 50.000. He said 80.000 for one, which was still far from reasonable, but to cut him some slack and to contribute to the village I went for 70.000. When he walked me to the waterfall he smiled. “It was a good choice to only do the one waterfall”, he said. “The others are small and not even really nice.” Like really!? Can you believe this guy!? Hahaha. The waterfall was amazing though. I jumped of the rock in to the 5 meter deep pond beneath the waterfall. Went swinging on a rope to release it at its peak and fall in the water. Lol! Crazy, childish, but fun!

Later on, we saw another smoke surrounded stand. Satay! And this time it was the Kambing satay! Jeej! ;-) The driver waited around the corner and I went alone to order the satay. We were in a remote village and the stand was run by a few teenagers. Probably the children of the owner. They were really surprised when I ordered, and giggled the whole time. They didn’t understand a word of what I was saying, found my accent funny, but understood that I wanted 20 satays. They showed me the price on a calculator, giggling again. And then when I left, one of the boys said in a bit nervous, but clear manner: “Thankuu ferry mutsj!” and the others chuckled loudly. Proud at their brother that he just spoke English with a falang! Hahah. Funny! And the driver was right, it was really nice! But to be honest, I like the chicken more. Hahaha. We stopped at one of the rice terraces along the road. The driver had explained me all about the rice terraces, how they needed large sums of water at the beginning when they are still young, how the water dries up later. He also explained what the flags were for, which you see on all the rice terraces. The flags were all connected to a system of threads. Sometimes a flock of birds or a swarm of insects attack the rice terraces. When this happens, the farmers pull the main thread so all the flags start moving, thus scaring the birds or insects away. Pretty genius! And because he had promised me to show me how the rice really looks like when it is growing, he stopped here. We took a stem and he showed me the rice inside the sheaths and explained me how they use machinery these days to extract the rice. In the past, they used to smack the stems against the ground manually, to get the rice out. And finally he told me about the Arak which is an illegally, local brewed ricewine.

On our way back, I played some relaxed Jazz music, while I was content fatigue, I saw a few kites in the air, the sun was setting while we drove alongside rice fields and other beautiful landscapes and I was thinking about my trip thus far. It has been more than I could ever dream of. If you asked me what I would have liked to add to it, or what it lacked I couldn’t name anything. The perfect ingredients. I felt really thankful!

We arrived near the hotel. I went to eat at my favourite restaurant with the slowly wabbling lampions. I tasted pisang goreng (fried banana), which I know from back home, but with grated cheese. Strange combination, but really nice! At the restaurant I also tried their famous black bean rice pudding, which is also lovely. Hmmm, my mouth starts to water again as I am writing this.

After diner I went to a traditional Kecak Fire and Trance Dance performance in Pura Taman Sari, performed by the group Sandhi Suara. The performance was held in an open air temple by night. I didn’t understand a word, but still I could follow the story a bit. At least I knew who the villain was. Haha. At the end they burned a pile of coal until it was glowing. Then a man with a stick horse circled around the pile of coal, supported by load singing. He then suddenly kicks the pile fiercely in to the audience, making blocks of coal just come to a stop a few centimeters in front of my foot. Of course I was on the front row and of course I was wearing short pants and slippers. Hahaha. They scraped the still glowing blocks of coal together until the pile flamed again and turned in to a glowing heap. Then the man with the stick horse repeated his kicking again. They did this like five times and each time the audience anxiously waited not to get burned. One time a female in the front row had to jump up however, otherwise she would surely got burned I think! Like wow!! #noregulations I still loved the show though! Amazing experience!

Back to Kuta. I planned on going back to the great Hotel I stayed in before. The owner told me just to call him one day in advance and he would make sure I had a room. No need for So I did. Done deal! Only the morning I left for Kuta I saw I had a txt message from him saying, he forgot to check the availability and that there was no room and at thousands of sorries. What!? So I got of the bus, arrived in Kuta, the bus left and there I was with my backpack and daypack and no place to stay. I quickly arranged a new hotel, which was ok. I stayed in Kuta for two more nights and then it was time to head for… Singapore!!

Culinary Ubud and Tulamben

I took a cooking class in Ubud. On my way to the lessons I saw two fighting monkeys. It was quite funny as they kept on going. I was almost late because of this. Haha. The cooking class was great.  I was the only one showing up so it became a private class and we had all the time. I learned about all the spices, vegetables and the cooking styles. I made Basa Gede, Menanak Nasi, Sayur Urab, Opor Ayam, Bali Satay Lilit and Pisang Goreng, which I got to eat all by myself. I rolled out of the restaurant on to the streets stuffed with delicious food. It was so much they gave me a doggybag full of my delicious (even if I say so) food. When I got to the guest house I saw a woman and her child begging at the oil station across the street. I knew about them, because they sat there every night and the guest house staff explicitly ordered me not to give them any money, because it doesn’t help them at all. Gangs, who put them to beg there, take all the money at the end of the day. Horrible!! So if you give them money, the gangs will only continue their practices. I walked over and gave them my bag of food and luckily the woman really appreciated it. Guess the gangs won’t be able to take that away!

The next day I went for Shipwreck diving in Tulamben. A city on the North-east coast of Bali. Just off shore lies a wreck of an US Army ship that was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942. It was a two and a half hour drive from Ubud. On our way we had a beautiful view of the holey mount Agung. The driver played a cd with 90’s dance hits. The cd was stammering and stuttering all the time, but he didn’t mind. Then I heard the cd was actually a recording of a Dutch radio dance radio station. The one with three numbers, starting with number 5 and ending with 8. Hahaha. Funny! The Shipwreck was immense. We went down, and at first I had some trouble clearing my left ear, but then suddenly you see a gigantic object beneath you. A huge sight and also a bit of creepy, if you realize that dozens of bodies decayed here between these iron walls. It looks like a big monster, all covered with coral, but you can still see the contours of the ship. The windows, the deck and the front of the ship. We even went inside the ship. There are also a lot of sea creatures on and around the ship, even more than at the Great Barrier Reef and just before we got up, we even saw a real Barracuda.

The World Cup is also living here! I asked the driver which country he is supporting. Unfortunately Indonesia doesn’t attend. Indonesia is bad at soccer he told me, they are the best in badminton. Most of the people support Germany. I was like… huh!? Until this day I still don’t see the link, but his words were backed up by the fact that most of the flags hanging outside the houses in the villages were German! Hahaha.

Eat, Pray, Lost

I left the crowded, touristic Kuta for Ubud. Only after I decided to go here I found out about the famous Eat, Pray, Love movie with Julia Roberts that made Ubud extra famous. They even have the Eat, Pray, Love trail, of which I still don’t know what it is. I watched to movie though. :-)

Like Kuta the streets of Ubud where also decorated with Penjors, but clearly more authentic ones than the ones in Kuta. Again the smell of incense, delicious food and burning compost hugged my nose. And at some places you are also surprised by the smell of clove from the kretek cigarettes. The serenity was special. I got myself a map and decided which places I wanted to visit the next couple of days. I plotted them on the map and talked to the guy from the guesthouse. He looked at the dots plotted on my map. “You can take a tour, but then you won’t see them all, and you will be bound to a strict program. You can also go with a private driver. Than you can see them all, but it will cost you way more.” “Is it possible to do it by myself with a scooter?”, I asked. “Yeah, sure! For example from here to the Git git waterfalls is only 2 hours driving or maybe a bit more” I don’t know why none of the alarm bells in my head went off, but it sounded quite doable. Me on a scooter, without GPS, only a paper map. Hahaha. If I had only imagined me driving on a scooter in Holland from Rotterdam to Groningen, I would have put this idea straight out of my head. But not then, not in that place, not in that time. I decided to go for the adventure!

I wanted to visit the Mengwi Royal Family Temple, the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, the Git Git waterfalls, the famous Banjar hotsprings , the beautiful Munduk area and Bedugul, with the Pura Ulundana Beratan Temple in the lake. A total of maybe 5 hours driving, but I would split it up in two days.

I packed my little day pack with swimming clothes, camera, cash, snacks, water, a vest, a map and more handy things. I was excited. I loved it! Driving the scooter alongside this beautiful landscape gives you a real sense of freedom. However I couldn’t even find my first stop, the Mengwi Royal Family Temple. After asking a few people I was lucky one guy offered to drive me there. I just had to follow him, but that wasn’t as easy done as said. He was a seasoned driver, overtaking trucks, pushing our bikes between cars etc. I managed to keep up with him, but more so I understood why I didn’t find it. We went uphill, downhill, in to an alley, on to a large road, went left at a rice field, through a village then back on a main road… like what!!? And suddenly he pointed to the right, there it is! I thanked him, locked my scooter and enjoyed the Mengwi Temple. Next stop were the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. It was already getting late, and I had only done just one stop. It became a race against the clock, because I wanted to get there before sunset. I drove and drove, and again. Impossible to find it. I asked a girl on a scooter for directions. She only spoke Indonesian, but she recognized the name Jatiluwih. She said something in Indonesian, which sounded like “Slamanplakat” and drove off. I was not sure if she told me to follow her, but it seemed like it, so I did. After only one minute she stopped and pointed to a unpaved road. With hand signals she explained me that I had to follow this road all the way to the Rice terraces. One thing that I have learned during this trip is to sometimes just don’t ask questions and just have faith. It was dusk already and I was hours away from my hotel and had no clue how to get back. But for now I was focused on getting to Jatiluwih before sunset. I drove the road which had a lot of curves in it and took me through some villages where people looked at me like a brown alien on a two wheel spaceship sweeping by. The road took for ages, but suddenly I saw this immense sight on my left side. Jatiluwih!!! I was there! I turned off the engine and enjoyed the now! Beautiful! Look at the picture of me in total calmness looking out over the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. Little did I know about the quest that was lying ahead. Whooehahaahahaaaah ;-)

It was now about 6 pm and the evening was kicking in. It is known for a fact that it can get really cold on a scooter when the evening falls. Luckily I had my vest with me. I put on my vest, turned on the headlight of the scooter and started my journey back to the hotel. I don’t know how many times I said the word Ubud, but it felt like thousands. I would stop at a little shop and ask for directions, but I was pointed out in different directions each time. May be because they didn’t understand me, or I didn’t understand them. When I was driving for 25 minutes in one direction, another person would tell me that I was completely wrong and that I had to go all the way back and from there take another route. I started to ask people for directions every 100 meter, because I didn’t want to loose any more time driving in the wrong direction.

It also didn’t really help when people say: “At the traffic light, turn right” when they actually mean a traffic crossing without any actual traffic lights. So I kept on searching for actual traffic lights getting way out of route. Or sometimes they would say, follow this road all the way and then turn left. Not telling me about all the little side streets and curves in the road, that make you wonder each second if you should have turned left already.

At first the whole thing seemed quite funny and I loved driving the scooter. But I noticed it was getting darker, shops started to close and the streets where getting quieter and I still was really far away from my hotel. Also it was getting colder by the minute,

And then finally I saw familiar surroundings. I knew for sure I was here before. These were the roads I travelled when I left Ubud. I was exhausted but glad I was close. Relieved, I stopped again, happy that this would be one of my last times asking for directions. But then the guy I asked said: “Ubud!!? Pffiiiieeuw. You are ferry faw my friend. It is 1,5 hour drive from here!” This can’t be! I was sure he was wrong, but when two other people confirmed I felt a slightly despondent for the first time. And this is were I really missed my iPhone with GPS. Thoughts running through my head, may be I should try to find a place to sleep? But where? There was only road en some villages, most of them completely dark and empty because everything was closed.

Was this funny adventure going to turn out in a little nightmare? No! I got myself together and again followed the directions people gave me, hoping they were right. I also tried to use the map now and then, but it was useless, because I didn’t know where on the map I was at. But then a new problem presented itself. My scooter was running out of petroleum. The only thing I could do was keep on driving, hoping I will find some place to fill up my tank. Otherwise I had to sleep alongside the road with my scooter? Hmmm. The road was still dark and there was no real sign of life in some of the villages I drove through. I just kept on going, kept on going. And… there it was. A real town. There was a night market going on. I found petroleum within minutes and was happy to know that there still is some life in Bali. My hopes got up. I drove for what felt like hours. I came across a lot of temples, where I heard the typical Balinesian Gamelan Gender Wayang sound. Ceremonies were being held because of  Galungan. People gattered in the temples.

I kept on going and asking people for directions. And funny enough, even if the man I was asking for directions in an unknown village, in the evening, with almost no one in the street, was holding a machete, I didn’t felt unsafe for one moment. Luckily their predictions got shorter and shorter. “One hour that way..” “…Only 20 minutes from here”, “Like 5 to 10 minutes..” until.. “Turn back and take the first left, it must be there”. Jeej! And even though I was in the street, I only recognized it as soon as I saw the sign of the Guest House and man was I happy to see that sign. I made it! I finally made it! A whole load of pressure just fell of my shoulders. Now my hunger feelings dared to step in, which I probably was ignoring all the time. I drove to a nearby restaurant, and I would never forget how perfect the music sounded, how sweet the food tasted and how relaxing the cool breeze felt, which made the white lampions in the restaurant slowly wabble.

Eventually I only got to do two things on my loooong list. Guess I have to go for the private driver after all, but at least I have another memory in my pocket. Hahaha

Sambutan Kanggo Kuta, Bali

My trip from India to Indonesia did not go without its setbacks. I developed a habit of not printing out my flight tickets. I only write down the flight number and Ho(s)tel address on a piece of paper. This worked for me pretty well, so far. I booked two separate flights. One from Kochi to Kuala Lumpur and the other one from Kuala Lumpur to Bali. However when I arrived at Kuala Lumpur, at the immigration desk they asked me some of the usual questions to see if I was not going to do any funny stuff in their country. “Are you here for business or holiday sir?” “Holiday” “How many days are you going to stay” “Eh, this is a transit, I have a next flight in a few hours” “Can I see the ticket for your next flight?” “Euh, I have this piece of paper with the flight number, but I still have to print it out…” and boom, I was crowned a suspicious person, within these couple of seconds. Hahaha. They were somewhat sceptic about my story. I had to go to a small office to get a stamp. There I explained my story and they sent me to another desk. After being sent from pillar to post for almost an hour I finally got the girls at one of the desks to print my ticket. Pfffieeuw! I was off, but I will be back though.

Like I told before every country has it’s energy and when I arrived in Bali, Indonesia it felt like a sweet welcome embrace. The sun was shining fiercely and the mixed smell of incense, burning compost and delicious food caressed my nostrils. I loved the smell! The streets were decorated with penjors, tall, curved bamboo poles decorated with coconut leaves with an offering at the base. This was because of the Galungan celebrations which are held every six months. The penjors symbolize the battle between good and evil, which is won by good of course. Also every day people put offerings, called Canang Sari’s in front of their doors. Nicely small tray made out of young coconut leaves and decorated with colorful orange and pink flowers. There were many stores with a lot of Absolut Vodka bottles displayed, but later I found out that actually these bottles contained petroleum for your scooter. I was already thinking why this vodka had a brownish color Hahaha.

The taxi took me to Kuta. The overly touristic party district of Bali. Sun, sea, beaches and banging dance music pumping out of the speakers. I would spend my weekend here and then head over to the more authentic and culture rich Ubud to see the “Real” Bali.

The first thing I did when I arrived at the hotel is go for the local food! I ended up in this back alley market and ordered a Bakmie Goreng (Balinese Stir Fired Noodles). The waitress asked me if I wanted it not so spicey, a bit spicy or spicy. I said: “A lot of spicy, I like spicy!!” You can play this joke in the Netherlands, but saying that here in Bali is like signing your death certificate. She smiled and after a few minutes brought me my order. I took the first bite and immediately I chocked, my lips burned, my throat was full of fire, tears coming out of my eyes and sweat dripping down my head. Clearly aware of my struggle the waitress asked from the behind counter: “Too spicy sir?” I refused to give in, so I answered with all the little bit of voice I had still left in me: “No, I like it like this! Spicy..” I took the challenge and ate the whole plate. Hahaha.

I noticed that the portions they serve here are relatively small, sometimes leaving you still a bit hungry after dinner. Also the food is not steaming hot when served, but rather lukewarm. And I really had to get used to eating with a spoon and fork, instead of a knife and fork. However with rice on the menu it was pretty practical.  You also really stand out here. There are hardly any other black people on Bali.

Legion street was where it all happened. This was the main street of Kuta. It also houses all the clubs. Sky Garden, with it’s three story building being one of the most famous. As an extension of Kuta you have the Seminyak area. A neighbourhood with also a lot going on. At one time I was in one of the clubs at Legion street and saw a little man in the corner with a whole entourage of people, looking and acting like Mr. Chow from the Hangover movie. He was jumping on the couches, slapping people on the buttocks and just going berzerk. I got in a conversation with him and found out he was the owner of the place. Shortly after that he pushed the mic in my hand to mc. I hosted the party for a few minutes hyping the crowd. It was fun!! Hahaha

Kuta was fun, but it has nothing to do with Bali. So I went for Ubud. On my last day in Kuta I decided to go for some crab, which I haven’t eaten for years, but when I walked out of the hotel alley on to the main street two people on a scooter crashed in to a row of scooters just two meters left from me. I was like really!!?? Luckily no one got hurt, but it looked like an action flick. I only had to dive to make the scene more powerful Hahaha The crab was ok, even though it had barely any meat on it. It had some nostalgic feel about it. Hahaha

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!

“Sometimes you have to travel a long way to find what is near” ― Paulo Coelho, Aleph