Tuesday, March 31, 2009

up to the hills

so i managed to find the golden temple, i could actually see it from my guesthouse. it was absolutely beautiful. i spent 3 days in amritsar and went to the temple every day to see it at different times. the first day was overcast so i didn't see the sun set over the temple, but the next day was fine. there were thousands of people there, i would have to say that in all the time i spent there i only saw about 10 other "westerners" as we're called, not very many white people at all. the whole complex where the temple is is huge, after you check your shoes and cover your head you walk through some water to wash your feet. then down to the amrit sarovar, the pool of sacred water. this is also where the city got its name, amritsar. the temple stands in the middle of the pool, with a long walkway leading into the temple where thousands of Pilgrims were waiting to go in and make an offering. i didn't go through, i just watched from outside. there are 4 priest inside keeping up a constant chant that is heard over loudspeakers, i could hear it from my room as well. there is also a huge dining hall where they feed you rice, dahl and chapatis, apparently they feed around 40,000 people a day all for a donation, they don't ask for any money, it was pretty amazing.

the other major sight i saw was the jallianwala bagh memorial. jallianwala bagh is a large outdoor park area where on april 13th, 1919 about 20,000 indians were holding a peaceful protest against the "rowlatt act", an act that gave the british authorities emergency powers to imprison without trial indians suspected of sedition, (rebelling against the british government). without notice 150 troops stormed the park and opened fire on the protesters, within 6 minutes more then 400 were dead and 1500 injured. there is a huge well in the park, now called the "martyrs well" were 120 bodies were pulled out of as people jumped in to flee the bullets. well that's my history lesson for today, other then these two places i just wandered around the old city. through the alleys and tried to get lost, but you can always seem to see or hear the golden temple so i could always find my way back.

after 3 days i needed to get out of the city so i hopped on a cycle rickshaw, paid the guy 40 ru ($1) to take me and my bag to the bus station. im sure 40 rupees was to much but i couldn't feel good paying him less to cycle and my big bag, with his skinny little legs, i don't know how they do it. i caught a local bus to dharamsala, which is north of amritsar up in the mountains, it was a crazy 7 hour ride. we arrived around 8pm and i found a place to stay had some tibetan soup and went to bed.

so far i really like it here, it's pretty cold here compared to what i've been in, at night it's around 10c and low 20's during the day. i've had to buy some pants and warm tops. technically where i am is called mcleod ganj, it's about 4km above dharamsala, and is where people come when they say they are going to dharamsala. it is the headquarters of the tibetan government in exile and the residence of the dali lama and many tibetan refugees. it's a beautiful village, but very touristy and full of white people, but i guess i'm one of them so oh well.....many people come here for long term stays, to take month long yoga courses or massage classes. or just meditate and hang out. im taking some tibetan cooking classes, my first one's tonight, 3 in total, the tibetan food is so good here, i'm loving the momo's. well i'm going to go see if the dali lama wants to have lunch.....

Friday, March 27, 2009

heading on up!

well after spending some quality time with my new friends at taha travels in baga, i settled on a train ticket to amritsar instead of flying. the cost was the main reason, almost $250 to fly and only $45 for train, although flying would have been approximately 38 hours faster then the train......even after i had my ticket no one in baga believed i was leaving, as i kept changing my mind and tickets to stay longer. but i surprised them all by actually getting on the train at 2am on the 26th. it was very hard to leave baga, and since i have to get to bombay to fly home i may do a quick stop back there before i leave, there's just something about the place that keeps pulling me back.

well except for the very loud children that were in my area of the train, the 41 hour ride was pretty ok. i did lots of reading, lots of looking out the window and lots of sleeping, or trying to sleep. the scenery was very different from the south, not so may trees and not as green. instead of looking at water and palm trees from the window, i was seeing brown patches of land, slums and falling down buildings. we arrived in amritsar last night around 8pm and i hopped in a rickshaw and went to the guesthouse, for the first few minutes i wondered why the hell i left goa. what was i doing in this crazy, busy noisy city when i could be enjoying a quiet evening on the beach with friends. but now i'm ok and am actually enjoying a little time on my own, experiencing a new place, not knowing where i'm going. on that note i'm off to find the golden temple......

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

stuck in goa

well i was supposed to leave here on the 16th, on a train to jaipur but unfortunately i had to cancel my ticket as i was not up to travelling. last week i went to south goa with peter and anita, a lovely austrian couple and robert who is from goa and runs the shack we sit in. we hopped in a little green car and headed to palolem, which is a beautiful beach about 2 hours away, ( goa is not that big). peter and anita come to goa for 4-5 months every year and usually spend 3 weeks at christmas in palolem, and the rest in baga. so they know their way around there. it was a beautiful drive down, and that night was full moon as well as holi. which is a hindu holiday where they throw coloured powder or liquid on everyone. as well they stay up all night marching around playing the drums, it's quite the celebration. on our way back the next day we stopped a lot along the way and checked out some beautiful little villages and beaches. even though it's so close south goa is much quieter then where i am. it is also a lot greener, more rice fields and farms. where as north goa seems to focus on development and tourism.

after returning from our little road trip i started to have some stomach cramps and then the diarrhea came, and with the cramps lasted almost 4 days till i went to the doctor and got fixed up. that was the 14th, so by my birthday i was feeling a bit better, but pretty exhausted, but still determined to celebrate! we spent the whole day at the beach, lots of fun had by all. the next day however i was not ready to get on a train for 26 hours, so now i am looking into flights to amritsar as it's going to be to hot in jaipur by now. so that's my plan as of now.

Friday, March 6, 2009

hot! hot! hot!

well i am starting my last week in goa and as much as i'm excited to head up north it's going to be very sad to leave. it has been a great couple of weeks hanging out here, relaxing and spending time with new friends. not all my time has been spent at the beach, but as the temperature is hanging out at around 38c with 98% humidity, i'm definitely there at some point during the day. especially if there's a power cut then it's unbearable at home, you need the breeze of the beach. i went into panjim (the capital of goa) the other day with a french canadian lady who i met through susi. her brother lives in vancouver and owns the stock market in granville island. we went to see slumdog millionaire, she was a little disappointed but i liked it, i'm glad i got to experience india before seeing it. there is an austrian couple here, peter and anita as well as their friend remy a french cook, they come every year as well. i've been hanging out with them, lot's of fun..... going to the markets and restaurants.

i've also in the last few weeks been offered 3 different cooking jobs for next year here in goa, and i'm seriously considering one of them, i'm actually torn between two so i guess it would depend on the $$$. neither one would be cooking indian food, one is a very busy greek restaurant, who wanted me to start right now. the other i'm considering is a restaurant owned by the guy who runs the beach shack we sit at, he has become a good friend and has a family restaurant in calengute (5 minutes away). and it needs a makeover, something different, like a good chef (that's me!) i would rather work with him but don't know if he can afford me, i would be happy with a 1000 rupees a day (about $26cad) but that's a lot for here, most guys get 1000-3000 rupees a month! so we'll see. the other offer was from a couple guys who have a travel agency here and want to open a restaurant and want me to be the western chef, but they don't even have a place yet so i'm not betting on that one.

well on the 16th i will be heading to jaipur for a couple days depending on how hot it is there, then my loose plan is to hit the taj mahal for a day, then up to delhi to catch a train to amritsar to see the golden temple, then to dharamsala and rishikesh and maybe leh as well. all subject to change at a moments notice.......