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Life in India with a Traveller in Sight

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Solo woman travelling to India – Fear or Joy

It made me think after I had an interview with BBC last night about how I feel as an Indian woman travelling around India by myself. It was around 12:30 AM Sydney time (24th August 2013) when I got a call from Chris, one of the producers of BBC news shows after my twitter update about my travel to India in few hours. Initially I thought it might be just a joke as at this hour I am getting a call to participate in an interview that too live. But soon I realized that it was actually happening and I had two choices – one go to bed as there were only 5-6 hours left to get some sleep before I catch my flight in the morning or stay awake for this interview discussion as not everyday you are given this opportunity. Guess what I chose the second option. Although before actually realizing what we are going to discuss I was all excited but soon enough the smile was replaced by the sadness and the excitement was replaced by the sheer anger and frustation.

The discussion was about the various issues that solo woman travellers face when they travel around India. It was inspired after a overnight hit article written by Michaela Cross, an Americal student who went to India to persue her studies in Abroad culture and civilization. It threw me into the same ocean of emotions that I have lived for almost 4-6 years when I was living back in India. All those memories dashed my mind in few minutes and some known emotions (anger, frustation, hatred, pain) made me feel overwhelmed.

I read the article published in CNN as adviced by Chris and instantly I felt a connection to this woman and her story.

Here is the link for the article:
http://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/20/world/american-student-india-sexual-harassment-irpt

Also I would share my thought of my India trip in this regard soon.

Celebrations!! Two more Articles Published in a Travel Website – ‘The Hostel Life’

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Yahoo!!

I am so happy as I have got two more articles published in the famous travel website – ‘The Hostel Life’. Check it out and let me know what do you think.

  1. Everything you need to know about Sri Lanka
  2. 5 Crazy things to do in India

Thanks to Corinne, the editor/publisher for publishing my articles in the website. And many thanks Mehdy Ghannad, creator, producer, writer and host of the show ‘The Hoste Life’ for making me part of their group of writers.

10 must do things when you are in India

 

  1. Attend a festival – We have so many festivals in India that every month you can count a few.  India is the most colorful land when it comes to festivals. No matter which month you go, there is always something going on. Although few big festivals are Holi, Diwali and Dussehra are the main festivals.
  2. Attend a marriage – Indians have big fat weddings and some of the riches are famous for show off as well but it’s worth attending a marriage when you are there as it is an easy way to immerse yourself in the culture and get the feel of the soul of Indian culture in short time that too with a lot of fun.
  3. Cook an Indian meal – You will learn so much about different spices that Indians use in their food as well as the reason to use them. Ever spice has a property that helps either in digestion or healing or something else in your body that you will discover when you try cooking some of the stuff. Do learn how to cook ‘daal’ and ‘saag’. You would be able to boast when you go back that you can cook some Indian food and guess what lots of people around the world love Indian food.
  4. Watch any classical dance performance – We have many
  5. Go to temple and worship in traditional way. Every evening devotees gather to sing praise in temples and it is music to ear and one of the things that you must experience
  6. Eat at the stalls by the side of streets – Give it some more time when you arrive in India as you might be new to this kind of non-hygienic way of eating but locals eat on such place almost every day. Even the corporate professionals walk down the street from their work place to enjoy some snacks every now and then. Make sure that you eat something that is cooked in front of you and not sitting there for quiet a while. There are some hygienic but little expensive options to try the same things in good restaurants like Haldiram where hygiene is guaranteed. Although many Indians think it doesn’t taste as good as the roadside food but it should be fine as long as you can get the feel of various food here. Like everywhere else you can also get McDonald here but with an Indian touch. Although I would suggest to avoid that if you are not feeling home sick.
  7. Shop from the street market and bargain the price – One of the surprising experience you might have when you buy something less than 20% of the actual cost. You need to know that most of the times shop keepers rise the price when they think you are a foreigner. So make sure not to get ripped just because you are travelling. One of the tricks to get a good bargain is not to show much interest otherwise they are smart enough to know that you like the stuff and you might be happy to pay any price they ask for.
  8. Live with a local family – This is the closest you can see and live the soul of the very culture in any country. And India is no different. So make friends and try to live with some one’s family and eat home made food. I bet you wouldn’t regret it.
  9. Get a pic on a rickshaw and bus – You will see the difference immediately from other places. It’s fun though.
  10. Travel by train – I know its is a little bit tough and scary at first but after listening to many fellow traveler I can say one thing. You can see true India here. Just few hours of journey and you will make lots of friends and hear many stories. But make sure you keep your bags around you all the time in case something is not insured.

Top 5 crazy things you can do in India

India is a land of spirituality and festivals. People go to India for different reasons. Some of them are listed here:

Spiritual Meditation Yoga
Exotic Culture Food
Travel a new country Attend a marriage Seventh wonder – Taj Mahal
Stop Over Work Study – very less
Trekking Adventure Live

But there is a crazy side of India as well and five of them you can do are listed here.

  1. Diving with elephants – You must have heard of diving with sharks, whales, dolphins and many other sea life creatures, but elephants. Yes, you can do such things in India in Andaman. Its a good location for diving. Emerald Isles is the place where you can either snorkel or dive with this amazing elephant called Rajan.
  2. Feed rats – Don’t throw the food if a rat has bitten it. It doesn’t sound very appealing right, but there is a temple in India where people feed rats and eat the food bitten by rat with high regards. It is a house for more than 20,000 rats and spotting a white rat is considered auspicious for religious purposes.
  3. Self driven car – It’s very unlikely that you will get a car that can drive itself. But something that can never happen anywhere can happen in India. Yes there is a place in Ladakh called Magnetic Hill where if you stop your car and put it to neutral then it will start moving at the speed of 10-20 KM per hour. No it is not a ghost town but there are some
  4. Live in a tree house  – Why not, live the dream you had since your childhood and live in the tree house in Kerala. Vythiri Resort provides a comfortable to live in a tree house where you will have all the luxury you can imagine with an amazing view of this bird territory.
  5. Auto-rickshaw race – Now this is not so out-of-the-box after all. But still sounds a bit wired. This challenge  is called MUMBAI XPRESS. This 14 days challenge will cover 1900 KM (approx. 1180 miles) and can be done in a team of two. It starts every year in August from Mumbai and ends in July in Chennai. You can see the variety of the geography (from hills to valley and beaches) doing this if you ever fancy going completely crazy. http://www.rickshawchallenge.com/trips/mumbai-xpress/

Travel faster or Fast Travel – Sri Lanka in 7 crazy days

You would say I was crazy to travel 9 cities in 7 days in a new country – Sri Lanka. No, I did see all the attractions, climbed a mountain, worshiped in temples, prayed in monastery, walked around the world’s end. How did I manage to do it? Yes, that’s the question I am looking for now. For some reason I am usually a very fast traveler. I traveled around Bali in 14 days which was reasonable good amount of time to see most of the places there. But this went crazy when I arrived in Sri Lanka with only 7 days in my kitty and no patience to wait till the next visit to see more.

Yes, I did go crazy otherwise how do you suggest I could travel there in 7 days via public transport and still manage to see most of the things without skipping anything. Of course there was a high level of discomfort, specially when you realize that being a travel doesn’t guarantee you the seat in the 5-6 hours of bus and train can be delayed for infinite time sometimes. But then you get used to of it and you start using your tired brain for nice ideas like accepting the situation and use your time to read a nice book in the train station and sit on the floor on the bus to save yourself from ultimate tiredness.

Now, I didn’t promise it is going to be a luxury trip – did I? So here we go…

1000 KM and 9 cities in 7 Days with 150 USD cash (excluding airfare) – Crazy Travels (You don’t believe? Have a look at the facts then)

Bandaranaike International Airport –> Colombo
31.0 KM, Estimated: 51 minutes, Actual: 3 hours
By Auto and Bus

Colombo —> Anuradhapura
202 KM, Estiamted: 3 Hours and 25 Minutes, Actual: 6 hours 30 minutes
By Train

Anuradhapura –> Polonnaruwa
107 KM, Estimated: 1 hour 39 minutes, Actual: 3 hours
By Bus

Polonnaruwa –> Sigiriya
58.8 KM, Estimated: 57 minutes , Actual: 1 hour 30 minutes
By Bus

Sigiriya –> Dambulla
18.8 KM, Estimated: 20 minutes, Actual: 40 minutes
By Bus

Dambulla –> Kandy
72.8 KM, Estimated: 1 hour 33 minutes, Actual: 2 hours
By Bus

Kandy –> Nuwara Eliya
73.4 KM, Estimated: 1 hour 8 minutes, Actual: 2 hours
By Train (Famous for the view)

Nuwara Eliya –> Ella
64.6 KM, Estimated: 1 hour 3 minutes, Actual: 2 hours
By Bus

Ella –> Kandy
138 KM, Estimated: 3 hours, Actual: 5 Hours 30 minutes
By Train

Kandy –> Negombo
104 KM, Estimated: 2 hours, Actual: 10 Hours
By Bus

Negombo –> Bandaranaike International Airport
9.9 KM, Estimated: 15 miutes, Actual: 30 minutes
By Bus

60 – Approximate walking
60 – Auto in the cities

Now this is an approximate that I was able to get via Google maps and that can result in few KM here and there. So you are ready to start with me? I am going to take you on a brief trip with me now.

I arrived in Sri Lanka Airport and realized that I didn’t have to bring all the jumpers with me looking at the humidity. But that was just the start. Then I decided to take the public transport to get to my hostel and was welcomed by rain on the way to the gate. I had more trust on my strength than any auto around so I started walking to the bus stand which turned to be further ahead than I was suggested by the locals. But then I was being talked into taking an auto to get there only after walking for at least 15 minutes. I was then able to secure the back seat in the bus. Soon I was relaxed after no sleep for one night and two days (My flight was early morning around 5 AM from Delhi to Chennai and Chennai to Sri Lanka, this was the reason I came to the Delhi airport in the night itself to make sure I don’t miss the flight in case I sleep in and also that was a pre-caution for security I thought was worth taking rather than taking a cab in the night in Delhi). So here I was successfully arrived in Sri Lanka on my own.

[Also I would like to add some more details to it. This trip was a result of 3 hours of confusion as to what shall I go for a relaxing week before going to Sydney from India. And then I had to cancel meeting a friend over the weekend as I was now heading to the Airport in the evening..lol…I know it sounds crazy but this is the reason that unlike many other times I had no idea what I am going to do in this new country.]

Now back to the actual story – I felt a pull on my purse and realized a guy sitting near me was trying to take my purse. As soon as I realized this I lost no time in shouting over him and rest of the people came to help me but he was quick enough to run when the bus driver stopped the bus hearing all the noises from the back. I some how managed to get the second bus to my destination now after the bus driver and conductor tried to rip me off by telling me wrong currency conversion. Thank God I knew how much it was though. A nice local helped me in the next bus to get the correct fare finally and I got to my hostel. I was tired and angry with the situation but didn’t take much time to cool off when I met other travelers from different countries. See this is why I love hostels at times because its always good to meet people when you are in such a situation. First of all its distracting and then it helps to share and cools you down a little. Not that I am an angry woman but wrong doings can make me really agitated to be honest. Till then I am a happy go lucky person 😉

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Then me and another guy took out the map and started planning my next few days itinerary as I was there for the shortest time. And that way we both were also making notes of nice places to see in various cities. I took few pictures of map afterwards as there was only one map in the hostel (Yes I know I am so badly prepared with any thing at all). Then next day I left Colombo to go to the city of ancient kingdom, the first capital of Sri Lanka – Anuradhapura. It was supposed to be 3.5 hours by train but it took 6.5 hours. So don’t be amazed as it happens there as well as in India. So have a buffer whenever you are planning to take train there. And also the trains run only few times a day so be careful and make sure you plan accordingly. Finally I arrived in Anuradhapura with no booking for hostel as I was assuming to get there in the afternoon and find the place accordingly. I met few locals on the trains and two ladies from them called a known auto-rickshaw driver for me to search a hotel. I finally found a nice place that was way out of my budget so I had to use my bargaining skills to convince them that its not a loss for them to give me room as at this time when they have half of their hotel empty not many tourist are going to come. I got the room and took a much needed sleep after a day long train trip. Next day I was ready with my back pack and called an Auto to show me around and then planned to catch a bus to my next destination – Polonnaruwa (Second capital of Sri Lanka).

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I loved this little cave….place used for prayers

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At this place more than 300 monks used to pray almost 1000 years ago

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I have never met such an intellectual auto-rickshaw driver in my life. This guys knew each and everything about the town. Its a common practice there that if you book an Auto then the driver is also your guide. And one more very important thing – there is an entrance fees almost everywhere in Sri Lanka. So there is an option to either buy the ticket yourself and roam around at your own. Or you can book the auto in the same price and they arrange the ticket for you and show you around. I was aware of this fact from the guide that I read a day before coming here. So I chose the second option due to lack of time. So I was able to see the old town in few hours and he even dropped me to the bus station.

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Bath for royal family

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Remains of Stupa

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Cave Temple

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Luckily people in Sri Lanka were celebrating festival

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Prayers

Oh it seems that my post is getting very long and I have to share the pics as well so why not I post the rest of it in next post 🙂 I would love you to come back and have a look at the next one as then I can tell how was I able to spend so less and still have a wonderful experience in this beautiful country 🙂

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Stupa – Sign of world peace

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I was told that the circle of life is represented by this half moon

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Taj Mahal – Seventh Wonder of the world (just for you)

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More about Taj if you wanna read

More about Taj if you wanna read

Artistic roof of the entrance

Artistic roof of the entrance

Entrance to the Taj

Entrance to the Taj

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Peeking at the beauty

Peeking at the beauty

Feeling the grand design and its historical value with every step

Feeling the grand design and its historical value with every step

Looked up and found this welcoming sight

Looked up and found this welcoming sight

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Seventh Wonder

Taj Mahal - Seventh Wonder of the world (just for you)

See Gurgaon, India from a common man’s eyes

Awe

Awesome ‘Parathe’ made by Monika…She is an expert when it comes to food…Loving it 🙂

Another bright day in Delhi - View from Balcony

Another bright day in Delhi – View from Balcony

Street view in Delhi - Pahar Ganj, where my friend from Australia is staying

Street view in Delhi – Pahar Ganj, where my friend from Australia is staying

Ready to start the day - Lets roll

Ready to start the day – Lets roll

"Who

I would take the Auto-Rickshaw now - True Indian....lol

I would take the Auto-Rickshaw now – True Indian….lol

Waiting at the crossing - Road shared by the rich and the poor

Waiting at the crossing – Road shared by the rich and the poor

All dressed in suit but traveling by Auto - Unique combination

All dressed in suit but traveling by Auto Rickshaw – Unique combination

Rising city - Gurgaon

Rising city – Gurgaon

Now that's a bit difficult to cross but I will try any ways

Now that’s a bit difficult to cross but I will try any ways

What else could give my day a finishing touch - Delicious food by Monika dear again, she is a pro

What else could give my day a finishing touch – Delicious food by Monika dear again, she is a pro

I am enjoying my stay with Monika so much...Thank you Monika and Avdhesh for making  my visit to India so much fun

I am enjoying my stay with Monika so much…Thank you Monika and Avdhesh for making my visit to India so much fun

India (Sweet Crowded Home) – Mixed feeling while coming home

Last day in Sydney was not as I was expected. It was a mixed feeling of leaving the place that I felt home for two years with a hope to come back one day. It was the bitterness of leaving the loved ones and sweetness of seeing the family back in homeland. I was not sure what exactly I was feeling as it was not one clear feeling but mix of a lot of emotions. I was supposed to be happy like other times when I fly as it starts a new adventure. But this time it was more like leaving some unfinished business and not knowing what future has got in store.

Saying good bye to each friend personally with lunch or dinner was like bidding your last good bye. But I am sure I will be healthy and wise to come back and many more dinners and lunches will follow. I was more emotional to leave my new place which was home for less than 2 months as it became like the peaceful place where I could retire after a tiring day or feel safe when feeling frustrated from everything else. I had a lovely evening walk with my friend/flat-mate the day before I was leaving. It was first time in 2 years while living in Sydney that I had a family in form of friends. So in total it was like when you are a kid and you have to leave your friends and known surroundings when your parents move to a new town or new country. Although the child was my inner self and adult in this case was my higher self.

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Anyways flight boarded with the same attitude of a traveler – old habits die hard. All rough and tough look on my face as if saying – ‘Who Cares’. It was an evening flight so right time for dinner. First flight was from Sydney to Singapore where I quenched my thirst of movies with two new movies. It was only towards the end of the flight when I was falling asleep. A jolt woke me up and before I could behave as if the plane hit a disaster, I soon realized that we had landed in Singapore. I walked out like a Zombie but still trying to look super cool, being the single girl travelling. A staff person helped me with the next flight details to New Delhi and I killed an hour doing some window shopping which made me feel sick as I am usually never in mood of shopping when I travel (because I travel light and with only one carry on back pack, excluding this trip, and this usually doesn’t allow me to buy anything extra).

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Following other fellow passengers I boarded another flight for another meal and few entertainment shows to keep me awake. It was 2:40 AM in the morning, people were trying to continue their sleep and I felt the pressure to follow everyone else. I had one extra vacant seat next to mine where I got the luxury to keep my body in horizontal position in last 20 hours.

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It was funny how a little bit of space can make you so happy at times where you can spread your clumsy body parts and feel yourself for some time. But it was not supposed to continue for long and I woke up by the menu offered by the air hostess to the passengers in the seat ahead. Anyways I felt compelled to eat for what I had paid hence I got up and tried to open my eyes to see till where the crew had made progress in asking for menu preference. I thought of using the entertainment unit to help keep me awake. I soon got indulged into a movie and then it became easier to keep an eye on the staff serving food. I ordered vegetarian food although I was not sure whether I was hungry 3:0 AM in the morning or not. I gave myself the benefit of doubt thinking that it might be morning back in Sydney. So I threw another plate of unwanted food into my stomach. I felt like an eating machine as since yesterday I was up and eating and walking and sitting and many other routine tasks but sleeping. I think this is exactly what happens – you lose track of time and also the capability of making the right decision, when you are so tired and sleepless. Reminds me of Sleepless in Seattle 😉

Two and a half movies on the way to India and time to land in New Delhi now. Again my traveler spirit jumps at the right time when almost everyone in the plane had left; I bid my farewell to the nice staff of Singapore Airlines knowing that they had been serving me especially when I was the only passenger awake all through the flight. One time the air hostess actually handed me over the full can of juice when she realized I was demanding water or juice every twenty minutes.

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Now time to get on high alert as I was entering New Delhi airport. It is an old habit of being aware of my surroundings (don’t confuse it with spirituality) as this has more to do with making sure I do not become a victim of any pick pocketing or theft. It was only when a lady tapped on my shoulder and asked if I had an iphone. It made me feel a bit anxious as to why she is asking such question but she soon answered my silent question by telling me that she wants to inform her family that she has arrived here. I quickly emailed her family regarding the same. Custom clearance was easy and spotting my checked in luggage didn’t take me long either. I was now on my way outside the airport when I realized that taxi and other services don’t accept any card. I had to request the security in the airport to let me in to change currency. I know right I should have done it before but I learn this new rule when you can’t take your luggage in the premises of airport once you check out. After changing some money I was on my way to get a transport home when I simply asked a guy outside airport if the metro services have started from airport. Good news was that it was up and running for a month now. I paid 30 Rupees (way cheaper than hiring a car or taxi that is 350 to 450 Rupees) and went to Sector 21 (near my destination). It is advisable to check where you are going to stay as you can always take the metro from the airport. It is cheaper and very convenient air conditioning option.

Journey home was not very simple but it was nice to be in India with friends and family. As no matter how much different India is from other countries but it is the warmth of people that makes you smile and feel good. And now that I am in India be ready for many interesting posts to come from this colorful and spiritual culture. Also soon here we will be celebrating one of the biggest festival – Holi (festival of colors) in March. Hence I will update you with the same.

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