Travelogs & Reflections > Peter's Travelog > India

Week 24 | Week 25 | Week 26 | Week 27 | Week 28


Week 28 (read down)


INDIA REFLECTIONS: Population and Density

In India one of the things that struck me was the amount of people living in the country. We flew into Kolkata, the ninth largest city in the world, and as soon as we landed it was immediately apparent how big the city is. After traveling in Southeast Asia and Central America, India was a totally different experience. All of the streets were just big sidewalks with cars, motorcycles and rickshaws trying to beep their way through everyone. When we came back to our hotel we were overwhelmed by the people sleeping on the streets of Kolkata. In other countries like Indonesia you could tell how poor the people were but there wasn’t a mass of people like in India. And we didn’t find this just in Kolkata, a city of 13.2 million people, but in all the places that we’ve visited. Varanasi was also just as over-crowded as Kolkata just not as big. In Jaisalmer fort the streets were so small that the people didn’t have much of a choice whether to be packed or not. I guess that that is the reason why India has the second largest population in the world with a population of 1.05 billion people and growing at 1.5% annually. Apart from the density we had a great time traveling India. In the end I think that India is a place that no one can forget.



Days 196; 1-19/22-06:

We arrived in Delhi via the night express from Jaisalmer to Delhi. Since my grandma has a Marriot card with points we were able to stay in the Marriot for free, earning a long needed rest. On the first day we mostly relaxed and typed up travelogs. The next day we went shopping for a saree for my mom and typed again. Our last full day in Delhi was spent, surprise, surprise typing, but we also made in to the post office to mail a box home.



Days 191-195: 1-14/18-06:

After arriving we decided to walk around town quite a bit. Apart from the usually tourist attraction of camel rides, the fort was great. Tiny, winding streets and shops throughout the town are what make this city great to visit. Eventually though we made a deal to go on a two day camel ride in the desert. We took a half-hour jeep ride to the drop off spot and boarded our camel. We each had our own camel with our supplies buckled on. Wow! You get hurt and amazed at the same time. When we got on, it was totally different from a horse and more like an elephant. Since they are so big, every step felt like hitting a pothole on the road. After a while though, the sore muscles start crying out to you. Eventually I learned how to control it. I had a load of fun when we galloped across the desert. Finally we got to our encampment. After some good food and chai we slept out under the stars in the middle of sand dunes. At the beginning of the next day Paul’s camel (Kalu) bit my mom’s camel (Gango Lee). Gango Lee started to run as fast as he could, my mom was bouncing up and down in the saddle, screaming like a maniac. Grandma Carrol was scared of the camel running at first. At the very end though my, Paul’s and Grandma’s camels ran the last kilometer and it turned out that GC liked it. Half-way through the last day, my mom didn’t think that Gango Lee was good for her so she gave him to me. It was good fun to race Kalu at the end.


Keoladeo to Jaisalmer:

Days 190-191; 1-13/14-06:

We took a long bus from Keoladeo to Jaipur to catch our 11pm train to Jaisalmer. We arrived at Jaipur and got some of the good thali in the train station. After what seemed like years the train pulled up to the platform. We arrived in Jaisalmer and crossed the picket line ---at the train station no rickshaw drivers are allowed to be any closer that ten meters from the station door. Thus, they hoist cardboard signs over the fence to attract our attention as you are getting off--- and found a good hotel called Deepak inside the small fort.


Keoladeo Ghana National Park:

Days 189-190; 1-12/13-06:

We arrived in Baratpur and got a room at Saras Hotel. That night the owner took us over to his other hotel where we were able to play pool and got some really good food. The next day we took a bicycle rickshaw around the park seeing over 75 species of birds. In the beginning we didn’t see as many birds but we did see some deer and a couple of antelopes. The antelopes were amazing. I was shocked about how big they were; they looked more like in shape bison than deer. Soon we were seeing many different types of water birds: Cranes, ducks, fish eagles, serpent eagles, storks and many, many others. Soon we got to a place where you just open your eyes and see thousands of painted storks. At one point we saw the rare black-necked stork right in front of us. We were told that only three pairs migrate down to Keoladeo each year.


Week 27 (read down)



Days 188-189; 1-11/12-06:

After finally settling down in Siddarth, we went in search of restaurant where we could see the Taj Mahal from. Finally we stumbled across Hotel Kamal. From the rooftop restaurant we had a great view of the Taj Mahal, good food was a surplus. Since we heard a good time to view the Taj Mahal was at sunrise, we got up just before dark to head over to the Taj Mahal. Just as we passed the gates, the sun rose and with it brought the Taj Mahal. It was magnificent, in splendid white marble with a reddish tinge from the rising sun. In the middle, the main building with a great marble dome stood out from the four corner minarets. As we approached the main building, we could spot detailed flower patterns around the base in jade, onyx, and other gems. The reason the Taj Mahal was built was to hold a dead Moghul ruler’s wife. The inside was perfectly symmetrical including the tomb in the middle. Except that the Moghul ruler was buried to the side of his wife, thus breaking off the symmetry. Apparently, the Moghul ruler did not plan to be buried there; he planned to be buried across the river in another Taj Mahal, though made of black marble. His son, who was in rule at the time, did not like the idea because black marble was very expensive so he imprisoned his father in the Agra fort and there he died.


Khajuraho to Agra:

Day 188; 1-11-06:

Today we got up at six am to get a jeep to Jansi. We originally planned to leave later but a Muslim celebration was going on and our driver had to get back to Khajuraho before it started. After getting to Jansi and being stuck in traffic due to the celebration we arrived at the train station. We again got general seating and experienced discomfort again though it didn’t faze us as much. As we arrived in Agra we were attacked by rickshaw drivers. We finally arranged with one to take us to the Taj Mahal area. About 500 meters before the Taj the rickshaws had to stop due to a law passed to stop pollution near the Taj Mahal to try and preserve it. We finally got set up in Siddharth Hotel.



Days 187; 1-10-06: 

We woke up late because we had got into Khajuraho at 1am. Outside on the deck of the hotel we could see the temples across the street. After having breakfast next door at Raja Café, we headed over to the western group of temples. As we walked in we handed our tickets to the guard and walked over to the first two temples of the site. The first of the two was just a small temple around five meters high. The spire on the top looked remotely like the three topping Angkor Wat. Around the side were sculptures of gods. The one next to it was a gazebo like structure with four stone columns holding up the roof. Under the roof was a big bull with intricate carving on the stone body showing daily life. Behind us was our first big temple. Around the outer walls was what looked like hunting scenes from back when the temples were built. After a short walk we came across three temples. The first was big again with stone elephants and lions protruding from the top. The temple to the right was very small and housed a smooth, stone lion with no carving. My favorite temple was one dedicated to the sun god. Around the outside were stone goats and other animals’ heads on top of a human body. They also showed an 11-headed Vishnu in one of the corners. Walking up the stone steps one could see the sun god in its perch in the middle. The next temple was dedicated to Shiva, much like the others except for a boar shrine next to it. That night we ate at our rooftop restaurant to see if the temples got lighted up at night, unfortunately they didn’t.


Kanha National Park to Khajuraho:

Day 186; 1-9-06:

Even though we knew that a long day of driving and riding the train lay ahead of us, we were unable to get an early bus out of Kanha because the first bus to Jabalpur left at 8am. The bus was almost empty to begin with but as we started stopping at small villages, it started to become packed. We finally arrived in Jabalpur and started to walk to the train station. The station turned out to be farther than we expected but it was still nice to get out and stretch our legs, even with the packs on. The train from Jabalpur to Satna was our first experience in general seating. All the other trains we took were night trains so we stayed in sleeper. When we got on we barely were able to get on the train because it was so packed in the compartment. Eventually people filtered out as we passed stops and we were able to claim corners as our seats. Finally we got off in Satna and met some friends of the owner’s of Pugmark in Kanha. Since there were no more buses or trains to Khajuraho at midnight, we were offered by the hotel owner in Satna to take us there by jeep and we accepted.


Kanha National Park:

Days 182-185; 1-5/8-06:

After being dropped off by the bus at a hotel we decided to eat before going to look for reasonable places to stay. The food took forever to come so while we were waiting we went out and found a nice place called Pug Mark. We got settled in nicely and just before sunset we went out on a walk around the buffer zone (humans and animals live together) of the park. Along the way, we spotted some common, there are about 22,200 of them in the park, Chital deer. At sunset we popped out by the ranger station. We were going to stop by the visitors center to see a movie on the park. We were heading over but first we saw a cluster of jeeps by the roadside. We called over to ask what they were seeing, they said a leopard. Awesome, on our first day we might see a leopard! We hurried, quickly but quietly over, but just as we came the leopard left with its Chital dinner.  We had already decided that we would not go on the tiger trail in the park the next day so I finally got to sleep in after an early morning. After going into town we once again went on a walk just as the sun was going down. This time we visited a reservoir for bird watching. As we arrived we saw some kingfisher and a serpent eagle out hunting. Later on some ducks came out of the forest zone and went for a swim. Tomorrow we will go on the jeep out into the park so we wanted to get some rest to prepare for a long day.


I woke up while it was still dark and headed out to the jeep where our driver was waiting with two other jeeps around him. The other jeeps left at six and we had to wait for another half-hour before hitting the road, this made us angry. We maneuvered into town and to the park entry where we purchased an entry slip. A few hundred meters later we came upon the entry gate into the core zone. For sometime our ride was uneventful until we got into the plains. In the grassland we spotted wild peacocks strutting around by the road, unfortunately none of the males unveiled their feathers. Large herds of Chital could be found everywhere in the forest or grasslands. One time while we were driving through a grassland we spotted a lone Barasingha deer (Swamp deer) which are quite rare seeing as they are no where else in the world save Kanha. At one point we passed through a ranger checkpoint where they gave us information on where a tiger had been spotted. We piled into the truck and raced off to the tiger. When we got there they had already set up elephants to go into the jungle to see the tiger, seeing as you couldn’t leave the jeep on foot. We boarded an elephant and crashed through the jungle towards the tiger. When we got there, there was not one, not two, but three tigers! A tigress and two of her cubs. The cubs were about 18 months old so they were about as big as their mother. The tigress was asleep but one of the cubs got up and moved while we were there. The other one was watchful and kept his eyes open but did not move. It was such an amazing difference between seeing tiger, and any other animals, in the wild than in a zoo or pictures. In the beginning they were camouflage so well that it was hard to see them, they had a lot of dull white that blended in with bushes where they rested. The orange that most people identify was not as vivid as most think but had a copper color to it so as not to stand out so much. After seeing the tiger, the last new animal we saw was the rare barking deer close to the lunch site. We ate at our driver’s friends place. The food was really good and in big portions too, I wish I could go back there. After lunch it felt like our driver and guide just wanted to go home because they were driving 50 K.P.H. over the park speed limit. My dad saw all the wildlife and our driver and guide didn’t spot a thing. They were really kind of annoying. Just after leaving lunch my dad saw a male Sambar deer, but our driver didn’t and flew right past it. After slamming on the brakes and backing up it was already gone. A little while later in the grasslands, we all saw a female Sambar, since it was in the open. Even our driver couldn’t miss it so we were able to see the deer and her fawn. At the very end of our journey two jackals passed across the road. They looked like small dogs, just bigger then a full-grown hare, and nothing like what I would envision a jackal to look like. After a long day of standing up in the jeep I was able to sleep in late in the morning. After breakfast we walked into town to get some gifts from a shop nearby the bus stop. We had decided last night that we would leave the next day to Khajuraho.


Week 26 (read down)


Varanasi to Kanha National Park:

Days 181-182; 1-4/5-06: (Jan. 4 evening and Jan. 5 morning)

We got a taxi from our hotel to the train station. Our train was due to leave at seven p.m. and since we arrived early, we waited around a bit at the platform. Soon it arrived so we boarded and after some crossword puzzles went to bed. We woke up at five and got off the train in a station and were ushered to a motor rickshaw that took us to the bus station where we could get a bus to Kanha. Halfway through the trip we stopped in a town. I got out because I was hungry and was looking for food. A street vender was selling a flat rice with a green/yellow look to it. Since it was the only option, I decided to try it. When he gave it to me, he put on something that looked like uncooked ramon noodles. The rice turned out to be some of the best rice I have ever had. It was really good.



Days 180-181; 1-3/4-06:

At the train station we had some trouble finding a hotel but soon found a taxi to a hotel nearby the river. We got settled in and went to eat out in the courtyard. After lunch we played some soccer in the courtyard. At 3:30 p.m. we started to walk down to the Ganges River. We stopped by a silk shop so that Mom could get a sari. Instead of a formal sari, she decided to get a Punjab outfit and will look for it elsewhere in our travels in India. After some exploration of the ghats of Varanasi, we got a boat to the six p.m. Hindu prayer service at a ghat down the river. There were about six dancers with fire next to the Ganges River. After watching the Hindu prayer service, we took a motor rickshaw back to the hotel. The next day was all of a blur. In the morning we were lead down to a boat-landing at a ghat where we boarded a boat. We were showed the shores of the Ganges (Ganga) River in Varanasi. Along the way we passed a burning ghat and it sent a chill up my spine when we saw feet sticking out of the fire, and then have one of them disintegrate away. It was a very moving experience. One of the temples we passed had been half-sunk by the growing river. On the way back we saw some men beating laundry with bamboo poles. According to many India as a whole gets your laundry the cleanest across the world. Since mine had a lot of paint stains from the boat yard in Thailand, I was eager to see if they could get the paint out. Unfortunately I learned that our hotel owner cheated and used a machine. I was very disappointed. After the boat ride we got in a car and took a tour of some of the temples around town. Durga Temple, the first one we visited, we could only view from a parapet above the actually temple. We were able to view the noon prayers in which people arrived in droves. The next temple was actually a big one. Because the center was locked off I couldn’t see what was making loud noises from the heart of the building. Apart from the center there were writings portraying similarities between the Christian and Hindi religions. Mother India, the last site, was a giant topographical map of India and the Himalayas in the middle. It was amazing to see how flat India is until the Himalayas and the plateau behind them.


Darjeeling to Varanasi:

Day 179; 1-2-06:

Today we had to get up early to get a jeep to the train station in Siliguri. It was a better ride down then it was up because there was hardly any traffic. We arrived at the train station and got on our train to Patna. Rambling into Patna at 5 a.m. the next day we got on another train to Varanasi.


Note: From this point on I will be using a different format for sharing my adventures. I will group the cities/villages together and only show highlights instead of a minute-by-minute account.


Day 178; 1-1-05:

Today we were going to visit HMI. Grandma and Dad didn’t want to come so Paul, mom and I started walking down the hill to the center. Inside the grounds there was a zoo. So along the way to HMI headquarters we stopped by the animals. The first group in the zoo was herbivores. We saw Bark deer and a giant yak. On the other side was a leopard. Next was HMI, inside was a museum dedicated to climbing. It showed a 3-D topographical map of the Himalayas. The museum also showed gear used while doing high-altitude climbs. Next door was a Mt. Everest museum showing gear and newspaper articles of when Everest was surmounted in 1953. Since HMI is really a training center, there was not much else to see. After leaving HMI, we continued with the zoo. The next animals were a clouded leopard and a snow leopard. They both lounged on logs. In a giant habitat was a Siberian tiger which was awesome to see. Next animal was the Himalayan black bear which looked like a fat Cedric the Entertainer with an afro, short extremities and kind of depressed-looking. The fame of the museum was the red panda. It looked like a slightly large red raccoon with a bear/fox like face. We finally left the museum and got some popcorn from a street vendor and cheese pizza and cinnamon rolls from our favorite bakery in town, Glenary’s!


Day 177; 12-31-05:

Today I slept in but soon had to leave on a walk. We’re trying to make it to the Tibetan Refugee Center. First we stopped by at the Observation Platform to see the 1,000 prayer flags and a view of Kangchendzonga. Then we walk to the base of the plateau that Darjeeling is on. At the bottom was the Refugee Center. We walked around the different workshops where some of the refugees were knitting, sewing, leather-working--for shoes--, painting and carving. After we finished in the camp we walked through some tea fields before finally encountering Tenzing Rock. Named after Tenzing Norgay, one of the first human beings on top of Mt. Everest, you can climb up the rock. Some parts of the rock are really hard but it was fun to get some exercise. An HMI instructor named Japan showed me some rock faces that they use to teach climbing. Some of them were very steep faces. Japan has also climbed Kangchendzonga and has frost bite on all his fingers so that the tops of them were cut off.


Week 25 (read down)


Day 175; 12-29-05:

Today I woke up late and ate breakfast while Paul, dad and grandma walked to the Observation Platform. After breakfast I did some reading before we started to walk to the HMI (Himalayan Mountaineering Institute) which was founded by the first sherpa on Everest, Tenzing Norgay. When we got there we found out that it was closed on Thursday, but we met a family that taught at a school down the road. They invited us to visit their school. After looking around the school, we went down to their house for tea. The school also had a cricket field in the back. The teacher’s brother was a cricket player so we went down to the field and he taught use the official rules of cricket (though before we left, Bayunt had taught me the basics of cricket when he came back from India last year). We played cricket for a few hours before it got dark. Playing cricket you use a flat bat that has a little curve at the tip. A bowler throws the ball and it usually bounces once before you hit it. Behind the batter in three waist high sticks called wickets. If the bowler hits one of the wickets you’re out or if while you’re running from line to line someone hits one of the wickets then you’re also out. You can also get out if one of the fielders catches the ball you hit. We took a taxi back to the main town and walked to our hotel.


Day 174; 12-28-05:

Today we woke up at four in the morning to go to Tiger Hill for sunrise. When we got there, the observatory was already packed. We separated and I stood on a pillar and watched the sunrise from there. After sunrise the mountains on the other side of the platform were illuminated with pinkish light from the sun rising. I soon learned that those mountains included Kangchendzonga, the third highest peak in the world.  When the sky got a fair bit clearer, you could see just the top of Everest in between Lhotse and Makala. The closest mountain was the third tallest mountain in the world, Kangchendzonga in India.


Christmas Eve and Day:

We spent Christmas Eve at Mother Teresa’s Convent. There were a bunch of volunteers there from around the world. During the carols you could make out several different languages. On Christmas Day we ate dinner at a nice restaurant with western food. I had some pasta. That night though we had to get on a train to Siliguri and then to Darjeeling.


Week 24 (read down)


Day 168; 12-22-05

Today Grandma, Dad and I took the Underground to the Writers Building. There is the infamous “Black Hole” where, during the fight for independence, the Indian rebel army killed a 100, give or take, British soldiers. Then we walked to the Post Office and I got some stamps for my collection. Then we visited Millennium Park, where the busiest bridge in the world is visible. That night mom, dad, and I visited a new restaurant, Zurichs, though its naan came in small portions.


Day 167; 12-21-05

Today we went to Dawats again and had a great breakfast. Then Grandma, Dad, and I went to visit Mother Teresa’s home. There Mother Teresa is entombed, when she becomes a saint she will be moved. There they also had a museum that had things of Mother Teresa’s before she died. Next we walked to Park St. and explored the area before stopping at Dawats.


Day 166; 12-20-05

Today we woke up early to see the city. Kolkata is so drastically different from any other city that we have been to. There is so much dirt in the air that you always have a constant cough. In Southeast Asia the food was mainly noodles and rice. Here a lot of the street venders are selling different breads and there are a ton of sweet shops. Also, the begging was a lot worse then we were accustomed to. Of course we have seen it before but not as dramatic as this. It reminded me of Cambodia. Yet, almost all the people we encountered everywhere we went were extremely nice and helpful. Like at the lassi stand, where the owner showed us how to make lassis and said hello to us every time we walked by on our walks. Adding to the begging was the amount of people sleeping on the street. But, the big one was the density of all the people. India is the second most populated country in the world and it’s only a third of the size of the United States. It was amazing how clogged the streets were. Grandma, Dad and I walked to find a restaurant nearby. Finally we stumbled upon Dawat Indian Food. The restaurant had really good food and cheap prices. My favorite dish was Dal Makani (mixed, black lentil beans in sauce) that I enjoyed with plain naan. That night we ate at the hotel. Dawat was easily better than the hotel food so we planned not to dine there anymore.


Day 165; 12-19-05:

Today we woke up early and prepared for the flight to Calcutta, India. After calling some of our friends we headed to the airport. During the flight we enjoyed a full course meal and some chocolate cake courtesy of Thai Airlines. We arrived in Kolkata and took a taxi to various hotels until finally finding one. We couldn’t really see the city in the dark plus we were so tired that we just went to bed without going for a walk in Kolkata.