A Travellerspoint blog

Delhi-Himichal Pradesh-Delhi

From the capital to the Himalayas and back: our first week and a half in India!

sunny 75 °F
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India. I've been her only ten days and I fee l like its impossible to know where it begins and ends....

India is color & spice. Smog in the air. Ancient cities and modern temples! India is where British colonialism and Mughal rulers melt into a monsoon of cultures: Dravidian, tribal, Aryan.... A place of high luxury and extreme poverty. Of the noise and din sleeping contently with Himalayan silence! Its all toy trains and chai. Bottled waters and dizzying buses. India is everywhere in the world squeezed into an overcrowded tip of Asia. Truly! I've come to believe in my short time here that hte subcontinent is really more of a mouth - the Himilayas a set of teeth. India gobbles up peoples - Aryans, Arabs, Dravidians, Colonials - then trapes them until they become digested into the cultural fabric of the place.

Really my time here has but hardly scratched the surface of this place. We spent the bulk in Delhi: exploring the famed markets, sleeping in the dirty backpacker ghetto of Pasar Ganj, and seeing the famous sights (Lotus Temple, Red Fort). While the primary activity of a tourist is to see the sights... the secondary activity should always be absorbing the place visited. And we set right to it!

We inhaled sweet chai and gobbled down dal (lentils). Admitted the bright saris of Indian women and still brighter lights of the festival of Diwali. Our first week has been as much about seeing as it has been about tasting, touching, and enveloping ourselves in everything India has to offer.

Our one stop out of Delhi was the old British Raj summer capital of Shimla. Shemmmm-la! It really rolls off the tongue opening the mind to all manner of exotic dreams. The fairly large town is nestled high in the Himalayas where it would stay pleasant in the summer for colonial officials. Modeled off of European cities it had an open monumental square, pedestrian only avenues, and cozy almost-German style architectures. Where once the British officials stomped today middle and upper class Indians vacation. In fact the place was swarmed with tourists! As all were domestic tourists, the place still breathed a lovely exotic charm for two Americans such as Amy & I.

From Shimla, we organized a 3 day trekking expedition into the mountains. I awoke the day of the hike with a fantastic sinus infection but my enthusiasm managed to carry me through our first day's 27 kilometer journey. The views were stunning: cactus and pine, high snow capped peaks and rocky water filled canyons. Our excellent guide - Hassan - a native of Kashmir took us down windy paths through forests and overgrown village farms. We stayed two nights in a tiny village called Tatapani... Tatapani or "hot water" was named after the fabulous sulfur springs pleasant in the town. From Tatapani we took all sorts of short 3-5 hour hikes: monkey-temples, "linga"-filled caves to Shiva, and windy country roads with excellent views.

From Tatapani & Shimla we returned to Delhi for a few days to recover and prepare for Diwali: the festival of lights. We would spend Diwali with the parents of Manali, a friend from college, in nearby Faridabad before heading out to Rajasthan and the Arabian sea... We had just got to India and all the momenum - previously drained by seedy Bangkok streets and humdrum Malaysia - had been revived. We were ready for all the good (and bad) India had to offer!

Posted by achamy 03:40 Archived in India Tagged temple fort train red shimla delhi toy pradesh lotus diwali himichal tatapani Comments (0)

Malaysia

Modern Kuala Lumpur to Colonial tea plantations to Portuguese Melakka. Last stop in SE Asia!

sunny 85 °F
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Malaysia was a stopover. Our flights were such that we had a week to prance around and revitalize ourselves for the India. Bangkok had been a low point - Malaysia was to bring us back up to speed.

Malaysia, we soon realized, was not just a stopover for us but also for the entirety of Asia. India, Southeast Asia, China, the Arab and Islamic Worlds all mix and mingle in the ancient and cosmopolitan Malay Peninsula. We arrived into Kuala Lumpur bombarded with evidence of this Asian melting pot. Hindu women draped in sari's brushed elbows with veiled Malay-Muslims who chatted with Chinese businessmen. Despite this (or perhaps because of) this ancient tradition of cosmopolitanism Malaysia was strikingly modern: large skyscarapes, automated trains, bumped with noisy street food vendors and the hectic humdrum of outdoor markets

We didn't have long in Malaysia so our goal was to head straight to the remote national park of Teman Negara - one of the most ancient rain-forests in the world. However, logistics proved temperamental and we instead broke off. Amy to the nearby city-state of Singapore and I to the Cameron Highlands: Malaysia's tea country.

The Cameron Highlands serves as the resort town for middle and upper class of Malaysia and Singapore. Surrounded by riolling tea plantation, bounded by an ever-pleasant 75 degress, and set withing tropical cloud forests.... it is a lofty haven within the damning humidity of the equatorial Malay Peninsula.

In a Muslim country with a conservative Hindu minority - alcohol is highly looked down upon if not forbidden. Thus the tea drinking serves as diversion for the well-to-so nto unlike win in the West. Truly tea plantations are hallal for wine country!

I spent tow days there - hiking through the fantastic cloud forest and motoring through the tea plantation. Sipping the local favorite - "Tea Tariq" a frothy locally blended crisp and refreshing milk tea - I meet all manner of odd characters. A Hungarian writer who returned to those hills year after year, a Bangladeshi day laborer complaining about wages, and an astoundingly pleasnt South Indian businessmen names Eswar (or East).

Eswar was in the highlands excitedly investing in a new guesthouse/hotel. He served as my personal Malay-Indian ambassador introducing me to the tasty South Indian inspired Malay-Indian cuisines, the intricacies of Malay entrepreneurship, and complexities of Malay and Indian politics. Ultimately, he invited me to drive back to Kuala Lumpur with him as we were leaving the same day. Traveling you see the world but on ly when you take small risks and reach out do you meet, learn, and grow. I was a bit nervous to take a five hour ride with this effervescent Indian fellow but ultimately it was an eye opening fascinating experience. I will never forget what kind generocity the people of Malaysia from Eswar to local shopkeepers showed. His invitation, along with the kindness of all the Malay people - left a warm place in my heart to the country.

From Kuala Lumpur I met up again with Amy in the Portugese port town of Melakka. We explored its unique cultural and culinary heritage. Meeting cristinanos (descendents of Portugese sailors who immigrated in the 16th century) at a lovely waterside resturaunt outside of town and mostly spent our days sipping coffee and wandering through the streets of the UNESCO heritage city. The town itself was a bit overrun with tourists from other parts of Malaysia and Singapore but nevertheless was stunning. Both of us were tired from the last 6 weeks in Asia and thought it best to relax for the flight ahead. We emotionally had ended our time in Southeast Asia and were completely ready for our travels ahead in the Subcontinent. India beckoned and it was time to say goodbye.

Posted by achamy 23:21 Archived in Malaysia Tagged food kuala malaysia asia southeast lumpur cameron tanah highlands motorbiking rata melakka cristanos portugese Comments (2)

Photo Post: Bangkok, Thailand to Camaron Highlands, Malaysia

Ayutthaya, Thailand; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, & the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

all seasons in one day
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Because there have been requests for photos... And I happen to have time to upload a few....:

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Buddha face. Ayutthara, Thailand.

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Roosters... Ayutthara, Thailand

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A lively night on the town... Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Sunset. Masjed Jamek, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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Random river, drainage ditch, whatever. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
PS: I really liked ((in person)) the partially obscured building behind the "Maran" building.

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When you are hiking alone in a cloud forest.... Things like mushrooms and moss seem really interesting suddenly.
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

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The hills and such. Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

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Tea Plantations, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Posted by achamy 04:44 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala thailand tea malaysia mosques lumpur cameron highlands plantations ayutthara roosters Comments (1)

Bangkok

and the bright lights of Khao San Road...

rain 77 °F
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Bangkok was a stopover for us - a long break before a brief stop in Malaysia and the long journeys of India. We stayed at a simple but primative guesthouse off of the famous (or imfamous) Khaosan Road... But of Bangkok? Of Thailand? The place was a strange mess - tattoo parlors and street vendor, high class resturaunts and seedy back alleys, impressive million dollar apartments cornered by bustling markets selling fake ipods. Bangkok - and perhaps all of Thailand - is flirting with the likes of Tokyo, Hong Kong, and New York - but still in some ways retains that rough and tumble attitude of a developing country. We saw some sights - the ruins of Ayuthara (unimpressive when compared to Angkor Wat), the National Museum (with a bit less charm than the scuzzy equivalent in Cambodia), and several wats. Most impressive was the National Museum. Most disappointing was the disneyland of tourists and cheap souvineers called the "floating markets"....

We had a decent time but the place was not a highlight. Not to say Bangkok was a bad stop. It wasn't. It was just our time in Southeast Asia was feeling close to ending.... Bangkok just wanted to shut the door and rush us along... The place - most especially Khaosan road - felt not unlike Times Square or Picadilly Circus or Las Vegas or any of the other places with bright lights and little local charm... Bangkok like all large cosmopolitan cities - mesmerizes visitors with the bright lights and high fashion - but hides its accents. The Brooklynite , the Cockney waiter, the Cowboy were here somewhere but the city was too large and difficult to navigate... and perhaps we were too tired to seek them out... Yet, on rainy days and the early morning... In the amulet market and within the hurried streets and beautiful canals of the business district, Bangkok emits a certain charm: a cosmopolitan mirage built upon rice fields and merchant ships, a place with the gusto of empire and a global attitude to match.

Posted by achamy 19:20 Archived in Thailand Tagged markets thailand bangkok floating road ayuthara khaosan Comments (1)

Photo Post: Cambodia

Phnom Pehn, Kep & Kampot, Siem Reap

all seasons in one day 92 °F
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I finally found bought a new USB hook up for my camera! I can post pictures again!!! In no specific chronological order:

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Monk at wat at Phnom Pehn.

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Me at a wat that resembled the "temple of doom". Angkor Wat, Cambodia

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Somewhere in Siem Reap, Cambodia

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Windows of a ruined French colonial Hotel/Casino outside of Kampot

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Another picture of Angkor Wat.

Posted by achamy 19:18 Archived in Cambodia Tagged ruins photo cambodia kampot island angkor bayon casino french reap rabbit siem post phnom penh kep Comments (1)

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