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Posts Tagged ‘Monkey Temple’

I’m In Heaven

In India on May 22, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Heaven = airconditioning, TV, soft bed, and clean bathroom

After the grossness of Hotel Maria in Kolkata and getting Delhi Belly there and having to spend way too much time in that disgusting place, I am now in the most beautiful place on earth.  And it’s pretty swank by western standards as well, all this for $15/night.

I totally princessed out for this part of the journey, flying from Kolkata to Jaipur in 2 hours instead of a train ride of about 32.  My hotel, the Hotel Pearl Palace, was listed under budget, still costs more than anywhere else I’ve stayed but what a difference it makes to a traveler’s psyche, especially one who lay in state for most of yesterday because she dared to eat the chow mein at the street stand.  I knew as soon as I did it that my illness-free run was over and the runs were beginning.  It’s always a weight-loss opportunity though, so no complaints.

The chow mein cart. It looked so very, very tasty and wonderful. It was evil. Kolkata

The heavenly bathroom in my high-end hotel room at the Maria Hostel. This is where the chow mein forced me to hang out for about 9 hours. Kolkata

Suffering the consequences of the street cart chow mein. It looked awesome, it felt awful.

Still love Kolkata and found even more things to like about it.  There’s no way I can accurately describe the feeling of the city, but for all the people and traffic and beggars and size, it’s remarkably laid-back and easy going.  The people seem happier there – maybe I’m just imagining that – but it might have something to do with all the wonderful green space.

The highlight had to have been my sunset walk over the Howrah Bridge, the largest cantilever bridge in the world.  Packed packed packed with pedestrians on either side sandwiching in about 8 lanes of solid traffic.  As I walked over the river, I noticed ferries running back and forth between the banks, so I made my way down to a stand and got a ticket to who knows where.  It happened to be close enough to the giant park again, so I was able to stroll leisurely back to my dungeon.

Looking down on the flower sellers from the Howrah Bridge, Kolkata

Approaching the Howrah Bridge from the feeder streets. Kolkata

A view of a ghat from the bridge deck. Kolkata

A beautiful colonial building in the middle of the bustling Indian streets. Kolkata

The ferries cross the river all day. A lovely way to commute. Kolkata

Looking back at the Howrah Bridge from the river ferry. Kolkata

James and I found a great Swiss patisserie, “Flurys”, and had the most amazing almond macaroon and rumball.  Top notch bakery and still cheap by anybody’s standards.  But I ended up eating most of my meals at the Blue Sky cafe where the waiter flirted with everybody and gave great service.  That is until I tried the street stand and then there was to be no more eating for about 36 hours afterwards.

The difference between outside the airport and inside was night and day.  I grabbed a cab to the airport and asked my cabbie tons of questions on the drive over.  He rents his cab, has no home, sleeps in the backseat when no one else is parked in there.  All the cabbies in the neighbourhood I was in were like this, poor, skinny, and rotten teeth from chewing paan all day.  Then I get to the airport where the middle class people are.  They queue up, they have nice clothes and all their teeth, and a large percentage of them are overweight.  The airport was one of the more efficient ones I’ve been in, but maybe it was just the sheer luxury of it all.  And the best part, I didn’t have to wrestle anyone for my seat.

Tomorrow the luxury ends when I have to take a local bus to Bikaner, a 7 1/2 hour ride without a/c in the desert.  Speaking of desert, a sand storm has swept in tonight and during the ride back from the Monkey Temple (yes that’s monkey temple #2, 2000 monkeys milling about waiting for peanuts to be thrown at them) a brown haze descended on the city.  Reminds me of when I was living in Damascus and I’m glad I don’t have to clean up after it.

The golden monkey. Monkey Temple, Jaipur

Monkeys everywhere. Monkey temple, Jaipur

That’s it from Jaipur and probably it til I get back to Delhi for my last day there.  Bring on the rats…

The rooftop restaurant at my luxurious hotel. Hotel Pearl Palace, Jaipur

The hallway outside my room. Hotel Pearl Palace, Jaipur

THIS is a proper toilet. Hotel Pearl Palace, Jaipur

Happy,healthy, and a little bit sweaty again inside my beautiful, wonderful room. Hotel Pearl Palace, Jaipur


In India on May 12, 2009 at 7:45 am

It took 12 hours to get here by overnight train but the ride went fast and was very pleasant.  This was my first time on an Indian train and I was expecting a lot less, at least some livestock in the cabins.  No chickens although I was excited to hear a rooster until I realized it was the ring tone of someone’s phone.

I ended up at a really nice guest house 30 seconds walk from the Ganges River and it’s been an awesome stay for the past 2 1/2 days.  Yesterday morning started with a 5:30am 2 hour boat ride on the Ganges to watch the morning rituals.  It’s a nice way to see what’s happening since you can catch everything from that vantage point plus it means you can avoid the crush of humans on the ghats (banks) of the river.  Lots of boats at that time filled predominantly with curious white people.  Saw one energetic fellow yelling into his cell phone as people bathed in the river and people prayed to the gods.

Click here for a video of a morning on the ghats.

A pretty good hotel room about 100m from the ghats. Varanasi

First view of the ghats. Varanasi

Old man on the ghat. Varanasi

Steps down to the water. Varanasi

Flags on the ghat. Varanasi

What would India be without all the colour… Varanasi

Out on the Ganges in the early morning light. Varanasi

View from the Ganges of early morning activities on the ghats. Varanasi

Despite the legendary toxicity levels of the Ganges, swimming is a huge past time for local residents. Varanasi

Afterward I took a tour of five temples, something of a feat since I find temples as interesting as museums, ie., not at all.  The monkey temple was cool though and I spent more time in the grounds watching the monkeys wrestle and bite each other.  One was playing with what looked like some unfortunate woman’s hair piece.  He actually put it on his head and stroked it in that way that women do.  Then another monkey came, ripped it off the other’s head which resulted in a tug-of-war, tearing the hair in half.  Everyone got some, everyone was happy.  No cameras allowed so I couldn’t get any pictures which was a shame because some of those shots would have made for great storytelling.

Then went to the Muslim quarter to a silk factory and ended up buying a bedspread, BRIGHT PINK.  Yes oh yes it is lovely.

What I think paradise looks like. Silk factory. Varanasi

Got back to the hotel, met a great older couple who produced a bottle of Southern Comfort and loaded up the glasses.  This was the way in which we wandered down to the ghats to watch the evening rituals, a little tipsy and very happy.  Met the caretaker of a burning ghat so sat with him for a bit while he explained what was happening below.  A family had just arrived with the body and was starting the ritual performance.  The sun had gone down so when they lit the pyre it was beautiful in the evening light.

After that went to a classical Indian music concert and promptly fell asleep, bad form since there were only about 10 people there including the musicians.  The tabla player woke me up with “MADAM, ONE MORE SONG!!”  Afterwards he came to ask what I liked so of course I said he was very good, the result being that in my delirious state I was suckered into tabla lessons this afternoon. We’ll see how that goes, I’m not doing any cooking classes so this may be a good substitute.

Tonight I get on the train for a 15 hour ride north to Darjeeling.  I met two young guys from Montreal at the tourism booth in the train station once we arrived in Varanasi and we’re all heading up at the same time so we’ll go together.

No more sleep problems with sleeping pills in hand, G.I. is regular for the first time in two years, and have a rash on my stomach the exact size and shape of my money belt.  All in all life is pretty sweet right now.

The opposite of sticking your tongue on a frosted post, resting your arm on an iron railing in 40 degree weather. Just as you take the shot. Varanasi