Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Back in Malaysia

We have been back in KL now for a couple days and will be staying here indefinitely for now. There will probably be a lull in my blogging for a little bit but do check back once in a while.

Stay tuned ...

1 week in India

Although our time in India only lasted 1 week, it has been an amazing, eye opening, and most humbling experience. Most of our time was spent in Delhi with only a couple hours in Jaipur. Regardless, the intensity of 1 week in India was so much greater than our 1 month in Thailand, and even parts of our trip in China.

While we were travelling in China, we met many travellers who had been to India who had commented on how different India and China were. They said China was so much more developed than India. I realize parts of China are quite modern but I never ever expected that the difference in development between India and China were this big.

Up to this point in our travels, everything had been fairly accessible. There were always supermarkets or convenience stores, quite easy to get goods. We went into India stocked with most things but were still expecting to be able to easily purchase many items in the big cities. We thought landing in Delhi would ease our transition into India as it was the capital and one of the largest cities there, hence most developed. Perhaps it was (given that we never saw many other cities) but it definitely wasn't quite as developed as I had imagined. Again, it could also be because of the areas we tended to be at. In the Main Bazaar (where we stayed) and in Old Delhi, we definitely couldn't find convenience stores or a supermarket. They had general stores I suppose, but they were very very small with limited selection. Here is a photo of the Main Bazaar.

Here is a photo from a roof top cafe above our hotel.

Even when we visited Connaught place which is a touristy area of New Delhi, we were suprised to find the lack of a convenience store. I admit it was a little more developed there as they did have quite a few western shops (nike, adidas, pizza hut, etc.) but it's just not the same.

On our last day in Delhi, we decided to venture down the alleys off the Main Bazaar and were amazed to find so much crammed into such a tiny area. There were so many families living in so little space, it was crazy and quite eye opening.

On our train ride out of Delhi to Jaipur, we saw the poorest people we have ever seen. We really didn't know what poor was until we saw this. They were everywhere, sleeping anywhere they could, washing up where they could. It made me speechless.

Given our short stay in India, I'm sure we've only just seen the tip of the iceberg of what India really has to offer. Regardless, just one week has managed to open my eyes so much more and humble my spirit. India is an amazing country I think all should see. Just go prepared with a lot of patience and a very open mind.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

In a world of men

One of the first things I noticed here in Paharganj, Delhi was the abundance of men on the street and the lack of female companionship. With the exception of foreigners, I would say the ratio is about 90% men to 10% women. The odds are a little brighter in New Delhi but not much.

In this part of Delhi, the men seem to hold all the available positions dealing with the public. Shops, restaurants, food stalls, etc. are all run by men.

As a female traveller, it can get a bit unnerving, especially since it is well known that many foreign women get harassed here in one form or another. We read in our book that we have the right to slap or punch them if we feel we have been harassed. Good to know.

We witnessed a showdown between a local woman and a man the other day. The guy got off his bike and accidentally bumped into the woman. She turned around and stared him to the ground. The guy kept apologizing profusely and she eventually left. Ian and I were wowed.

Then, my showdown came. We were in the Palika Bazaar, an underground market and this guy bumped into me. It totally took me off guard and I turned around and gave him the death stare. The guy kept apologizing and eventually left. It was nice to know my death stare has some effect when I need it.

Unfortunately, this doesn't work all the time. Sometimes, it's difficult to tell if someone bumps into your butt by accident or if it was intentional. I don't want to mistakenly slap someone who accidentally bumped into me. But then again, Ian said he's never been bumped into .... hmmm.

Rolling blackouts

We've now been in Delhi for 5 days and are finally starting to get used to this place. In the past 6 months, we've experienced the odd power failure here and there but we never expected a daily blackout (twice a day) here in Delhi.

The first time it happened, we thought it was because of the crappy hotel we picked. We realized soon after that this was not the case. Every morning around 9:30am, the first blackout of the day would happen. Sometimes, the hotel staff would ring the bells to warn the guests. Then, you'll hear the generator starting up and we'll get everything back again (minus the A/C) within a minute or so. About an hour later, the power will go off for a split second as they turn off the generators and resume power. Again, in the evening around 8:15pm, all this will happen again. It's amazing how much quieter (it's all relative) the streets are when all the generators are off.

We were surprised to find that Delhi had rolling blackouts. It'll be interesting to see what the smaller cities experience.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

We actually made it to India!

After 3 very relaxing weeks in KL with my dad, it was time for us to move on again in our journey. It was difficult leaving as we were so comfortable and it was nice being able to spend time with both family and friends there. We knew if we didn't leave soon, we'd get too lazy so everything got packed up again in our backpacks, booked our tickets, and here we are in India!!!

We arrived in Delhi yesterday. The flight over was fairly uneventful. When checking in to our flight in KL, again we had slight problems with only having a one way ticket into India. The airline made us sign a waiver removing them from any responsibilities if we were to get deported once we arrived. Arrived in Chennai and no problems.

It is difficult to comment on first impressions of India while in Chennai as we really only saw the airport and for the most part, it looks like any other city. Airport was old and unremarkable.

However, when we arrived in Delhi, for the first time on our trip, we got seriously scammed! In the airport too, nonetheless. We were at the prepaid taxi stand getting a ticket for our taxi so we wouldn't get ripped off by the taxi themselves and the ticket guy pulled a fast one on us! The bill came to 170Rs and Ian pulled out a bill (which he thought was 1000Rs). I wasn't watching carefully and the guy handed back a 100Rs and said it was 170Rs. I handed that bill back to Ian and told him that was only 100Rs. Since neither of us were on the ball at that point (we were still in the airport!), Ian pulled out another 1000 and gave it to that guy. Later on that night, we were counting our money and realized we were missing 900Rs and linked it back to that. Bastard. I can't believe we got scammed so badly in a supposedly official place! Welcome to India, huh?

Anyways, back to my impressions of India. After we left the Delhi airport, everything changed. Holy smokes, if we thought traffic was bad anywhere else in the world we've been too, they were all nothing compared to this place. This is utter chaos. Everything is everywhere. On our taxi ride in, the streets were busy and such but nothing prepared us for the minute our taxi turned onto the Main bazaar street where most budget hotels were. I was instantly overwhelmed, this was chaos of all chaos. Cars, tuk tuks, bikes, motorcycles, rickshaws, people, and cows! everywhere.

We are finally a little more settled in today in a decent hotel and will be exploring the area. More updates to come!

Friday, September 08, 2006

I guess I really wasn't supposed to bend that way ...

Remember when I was complaining about all the pain I went through during my Thai massage? Well it turns out it was all for a good reason!

Ever since I've had that massage, I've felt pressure in my left ear. It's similar to flying but I can usually get rid of that pressure easily. After a month of not being able to hear clearly, I went to see a doctor here in Malaysia and it turns out my left ear nerve has been damaged. Swell ... just swell.

He said it could possibly be from the neck cracking. He also said there is a good chance of recovery since I'm young but no guarantees as it can get worse as well. If it does recover, it could take months! Oh yah ... and here are all the pills I have to take to help the recovery!

Moral of the story: Don't get a Thai massage. :P