No tigers – world’s best masala chai instead

No tigers – world’s best masala chai instead

Next stop was Ranthambore National Park which is the best place for spotting Bengal tigers. It was once the private hunting ground for the kings of Jaipur but since 1957 has been a safe place for them to thrive. We stayed in a very cool fort hotel with paintings and photos of the royal family, complete with beautiful courtyards and little nooks for reading or Facebooking. It made me feel like I was in the true Rajasthan. In the evening we sat around an open fire and had gin and tonics. The one thing that bothered me that there was a tiger skin and taxidermied growling tiger heads on the walls of the restaurant. I was glad to hear that hunting has been banned in India since 1972 when they realized that no, tigers are not in infinite supply. There are currently about 2,500 tigers in India today thanks to a conservation effort called Project Tiger. Did you know their numbers are actually increasing? Some good news for once. Jes and I dressed the part for our safari with earthy toned clothes and aviator sunglesses. We looked very cool. Mariel the American I think wore camouflage pants, or at least was threatening to wear her camo pants. We were picked up by a huge open jeep type vehicle. Our tour guide had bad red teeth due to chewing betel nut, a stimulant that is similar in effect to coffee. It’s hard not to stare at those stained red teeth sometimes. When we were driving to the park, we passed a pimped out tractor blasting music and driving really fast. Everyone was startled by this, but...
Jaipur the “pink city” in which Western things happened

Jaipur the “pink city” in which Western things happened

Okay so #1. Jaipur isn’t really pink. It’s called the the Pink City because in 1876, the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria visited India on a tour. Since pink denotes the colour of hospitality, Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur painted the whole city pink to welcome the guests. #2. I didn’t really see much of the city. Jes and I needed a break from the touristy things so instead we did Western things. (I love how “Western” means “stuff white people like” in India, but from a West Coast perspective, it means “cowboy”). First, of course, though, was the Fort. There are many forts in India. Jes got sick of the forts. But this one at least had elephants. I think they have a pretty boring life though because they just walk up and down this steep road from the bottom of the hill to the courtyard. They work half a day. I hope they are treated okay.  The coolest part of the fort was the hall of mirrors, apparently created in honour of womens’ vanity? Is what I figured from what the guide said. Who then took my photo. We were told not to pay attention to the snake charmers. OMG I thought, there are snake charmers? But they are bad people who take the poison from the snakes and are mean to them? So of course we saw a snake charmer and I tried so hard not to look but I was so fascinated. I snuck a peek out of the corner of my eye and the snake was so SHINY. The next day we went shopping at...
Madhoghar Fort, Bassi

Madhoghar Fort, Bassi

The first really cool place the tour stayed was in a small village with a fort converted to a hotel (Madhoghar Fort)! Our room was in a corner of the fort and pretty nice. Some of the other tour members had super fancy bedrooms with tile mosaics and living rooms but we tried not to be too envious. Across from us was a mysterious room with no lock on the door which was slightly ajar. Of course we couldn’t contain our curiosity and wandered in. It was a guest room under construction / in disuse. The bath tub was full of dust and broken boards, there was no furniture and in what should have been the bedroom was a Hindu shrine. Seems like it had been used lately since there were ashes and soot and an idol. Almost every home in India has a Hindu shrine. Incense,  flowers, marigolds… often the idol is painted orange with so many coats of paint that the shape is no longer recognizable. That evening we had a really fancy supper. The ladies got whisked away to a private room to get dressed by a local village lady into fancy clothes. After a few tries to get my buxom frame into a top we had success.  Then we were paraded downstairs to the courtyard where a fire was burning and the men sadly had only poorly wrapped turbans as their costume (with their regular clothes of course … not JUST the turban). Some of the ladies had to change immediately due to their arms getting the circulation cut off. I think maybe they need to invest in bigger sizes....
Tearjerker Taj Mahal

Tearjerker Taj Mahal

​The next morning at the ungodly hour of 5 am we assembled at the train station to catch a train to see the Taj Mahal. We were still putting our luggage on the overhead bins when the smell of smoke started sliding into our nostrils. It got strong then I heard  an authorotativel voice say “evacuate the train slowly! Take your small bags” so I grabbed my backpack and politely started walking out. This small woman started shoving me from behind and telling me to hurry and I told her I was exiting sensibly at which point she turned onto George Costanza and shoved her way in front of everyone. And that boys and girls is how crowd crushes happen. We assembled on the station and watched a dude spray fire extinguisher in the top of our train car. I saw the shoving lady who was part of another tour group. I gave her the stink eye but she wouldn’t look at me. There was confusion about where to go after but we managed to get seats on a neighboring car. I wasn’t about to get back on the toxic car. We were only 15 minutes in leaving lol. It was surprisingly foggy outside, something I wasn’t expecting. We checked into the hotel then visited a carpet factory. They gave us samosas for lunch then gave us the hard sell. We got tea and sat down on the couches. Then they unrolled many many carpets. For hand knotted carpets that take many months they were surprisingly affordable. But nobody bought one then they started walking out which made me uncomfortable....
Delhi in which Beth dances Bangra on new years

Delhi in which Beth dances Bangra on new years

​One week ago which seems like forever ago i arrived in delhi. I was picked up at the airport and delivered to my hotel. I had a whole day to kill which was fine by me. I just took it easy,  caught up on email,  chatted with my sweetie and got some laundry done. I wandered around for a couple of hours and checked out the local markets.  The traffic was pretty mental but I stayed on the smaller streets. It was nice not to get hustled by the touts as this is not really a touristy area. I waited for Jes to show up for what seemed like forever on new years eve. At about 11:45 I went to the lobby because I was confident she would arrive before midnight and she did! With 10 minutes to spare.  I took her up to the room and as she was unpacking the clock struck midnight and we hugged. I let her settle in for a few minutes then dragged her next door to the bar for a drink. There were some locals there dancing to Bangra music and of course we had to join in. They really enjoyed that and hooted and hollered and of course took selfies of us… in exchange I took selfies too. We met three members of our tour group there too having some drinks. We toasted the new year in with some indian whisky. They were great fun. Maybe it was mean of me but I dragged Jes out on the Metro the following day. We had most of the day to kill since our...
Backwaters of kerala in which no booze was to be found

Backwaters of kerala in which no booze was to be found

​After an air conditioned “local” bus full of other white people we arrived in Allepy which is the center for backwater boat tourism. Our guest house was in a lovely dutch heritage home run by a very sweet man who always seemed to be hustling business on the phone. We saw the Indian business network in full force here. They all employ family members and friends for drivers restaurants etc. one of whom was a very attractive man named Sheffi who told us how he wasn’t married and didn’t have kids because he wanted to live his life free and party in secret. Well turns out he’s a total liar. Married with two children. I was really mad at being lied to like that. I called him out on it later and I could see him squirming then he decided to stick with the lie and adamantly deny he was married. Carrie confirmed later he’s a big fat liar.  Just remove the plants,  honking,  garbage,  heat, and rickshaws and this could be Amsterdam! We went on a search for food the first night which is harder than it sounds. We were in an isolated area so had to walk in the dark past gangs of young men all just hanging out and looking at us pass. We ended up at a tourist restaurant but waited an hour for our order to be taken. The only other option was a muslin restaurant full of only men which was super weird and intimidating. We ended up storming out without ordering and ate chips for dinner. Also frustrating was the fact that no...