Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Our trip so far...

78 days, 234 meals, 2 different countries, 25 different guest houses, 5 different planes, 6 boats, 5 different trains, 18 different buses, and an uncountable number of rickshaws.  

View Asia trip in a larger map

Amount of time spent travelling...
Total so far on the trip (including Indonesia): 179 hours and 15 mins. 
This means that 10% of our trip so far has been taken up sitting on a bus, boat, cycle rickshaw, motor rickshaw, overcrowded bus or train.
Total in India: 128 hours 30 mins

Longest leg of the journey so far... 
20 hours 30 mins.
A very long journey from Bikaner to Amritsar on two different crowded local buses, with people virtually sitting on top of us, taking “discreet” photos of us with their camera phones.

Approx money spent so far...
total spent during 78 days= $2700 
which means it was an average of $35 per day (which is two hours wage back at home)
Without including the major expenses (such as plane tickets, visas, xmas pressies) its $25 per day
total spendings in India= $1600 
Which means it was an average of $27 per day
Without including major expenses it is an average of $16 per day
total bank fees for international with drawls = $190

total spend for 78 days= $3000 
approx. average spend per day: $39 per day
(As you can see Daniel is not as detailed as Hannah is)

Different states visited...
Maharastra, Gurajat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh (in order). 
Favourite state:
Punjab. For the chicken the beer and the people- Daniel
Himachal Pradesh. For the mountains, the clean air and the -Hannah


1. Mcleoud Ganj
Tucked up in the mountains this town has a calm atmosphere, and when coming from the bustling, overcrowded cities of India, McLeoud Ganj was a breath of fresh air, literally. The mountain air was fresh and you always felt close to nature. Because it was tucked up in the mountains it limits how big the town can grow, keeping it far from the bustling cities of India. The presence of Tibetans, mostly refugees, brings you close to reality and opens your eyes to the Tibetan situation and bring a delicious addition to most restaurant menus; momos. There is so much to do in the town from volunteering to teach English, to charitable music concerts, yoga courses, and treks up the nearby mountain. Mcleoud Ganj is not a destination you feel content visiting just once in your lifetime. It has life long “impermanent residents” who always come back for more, and I’m sure we will be one of them.
2. Udaipur 
India’s own version of Venice. The little bustling alleyways full of little market stalls, cows in every inconvenient location you can think of, a beautiful palace and a picturesque river. We will never forget chilling on a rooftop restaurant as fireworks are blasting just metres away as we celebrated Diwali with friends. This place captivates you from the start and entices you to explore every alleyway possible. No wonder we spent 10 days here.

3. Jaisalmer
From the bustling and hectic cities in India, Jaisalmer is a nice break. You are immediately impressed by the towering fort that shadows the town beneath and its little cobbled alleyways. We met so many beautiful people here who were all nice and willing to help, at no cost. We will never forget riding out into the desert on camels, sleeping under the sand dunes, eating food cooked for us over a fire and being far away from the noise and pollution.

It is a close tie between two. The first is the amazing view from the top of mount triuand in Mcleoud Ganj where you can see the tiny towns below and towering overhead are the himalayian mountains dusted in snow.

And the second is the eerie ganges in the ancient city of Varanassi, full of such culture, colour, traditions and magical charm. The sight of a row boat appearing from the fog as you sit watching bodies being burnt nearby will always remain a memorable sight.
In India you cant go past a thali for both value and for taste. The different elements of the dish make it fun, messy and impossible for you to get bored of it. In the local hangouts you can fill your belly and have as many refills as you like for about $1 AUD on average. The typical thali has Dahl, mixed veg curry, curd (yoghurt), 2 chapatti (indian style bread) and a papadum. Different places have different styles of thali, with some having aloo (potato) curry as well, some have pickle, salad and some, if your lucky, even have desert! The best thali we had was in Mumbai at Laxmi New Villa. Tasty and they weren’t shy with the portions.
Of course masala dosa has to have a mention as we both have a very dear soft spot for these.Paneer tikka masala is also worth a mention with its creamy rich tomato gravy, with soft cheese much like haloumi that makes a nice squeaking sound when you eat it. 

For dan the best is his choc and banana lassi from the Blue Lassi shop in Varanassi. But chai has got to be a universal favourite for travellers. It is a social drink, much like our coffee at home. People sitting on the side of the road enjoying a little clay pot full of chai for only 5 rupees! (10 cents) Its bound to put a smile on anyone’s face.

For Dan his best purchase is the sitar. He bought it for 12,000 rupees ($240AUD) but you can resell it in Australia for $800AUD. The only problem with it was there was bone inlay which Dan had to get fixed before sending it back home, as customs would not let it through.

For Hannah her $15AUD hiking boots were a bargain! They are a cheap chinese pair, but managed to get her up Mount Triund and back without too many blisters. Note to self: were in hiking boots before going on a 11 hour trek up and down a mountain.

People watching.
The best has got to be the Indian and Pakistani border closing ceremony. The amount of effort that goes into this celebration of patriotism is incredible. It reminded us of an AFL match back home were people were waving flags shouting chants, singing, dancing in the street all trying to outdo the other team. Which may I add wasn’t hard. The Indian side of the border was packed, there was not a spare seat in the whole of the three stadiums, yet the Pakistani side stretched to even fill up half of one of their stands. And the amazing thing is this event happens every night of the year, you would think they would get bored of it!
Moment of India.
For Hannah seeing snow for the first time was a memorable moment. It may have been muddy and very patchy, but it was still snow to her! Also coming out of the 10 days of noble silence and being able to share a laugh with the friends around her was nice.
For Daniel it was seeking refuge in the Jaisalmer fort for a quiet rooftop breakfast, with no noise pollution after spending a week at the notoriously packed pushkar camel fair. He also loved jamming on a rooftop in Udaipur whilst watching fireworks from the palace.
And Hannah’s birthday also deserves a mention, nothing beats a banana honey cake, with choc bars sticking out of it and sharing it with people who feel so close, you would even call them family.

Our pick of hotels for future travellers...
We know how important a good guest house is when travelling, especially India, and it can make a lasting impression about the certain town you are visiting, sometimes good, sometimes bad. So we have compiled a list of places that we liked…

Salvation Army Red Shield House, Near Colaba Markets
Average price for a double room: 725 rupees ($15AUD)
This a very well known guest house and is in the guide books, so it is a good idea to book ahead. Great value, great service and is the cheapest place around. There was a share toilet and shower. The room had just a double bed and desk, which had probably seen better days. However, the cracked paint, mouldy walls and old door to the room adds to its rustic charm. The price includes breakfast and lunch, simple, but tasty. The one problem with the room was that it had no power point so if you needed to charge anything you have to wait for a vacant power point in the dining hall. You can go cheaper and stay in a dorm, or you can pay a bit extra and get an air con room. It has amazing location right near the colaba markets, the river, fashion markets, and the train line. Great service and the guys are always willing to help you know the right price you should pay and the right places to shop. This is helpful as it is easy to get ripped off in Mumbai, as we know.

Ganesha Guest House
7, Lal Ghat, Udaipur. Email: mahaveer_s@hotmail.com
phone: +91-294-2524266
cost: 200 rupees for a double room
Cheapest place around by far. The rooftop restaurant was a bit expensive and very average, but the view is incredible. The guy who runs it is a little pushy and prefers you to only buy goods from his store below, and only eat at his restaurant. The location is a little noisy as well with the temple right next door, but the family below are lovely and friendly. In a huge nearby tree you can watch families of monkeys whilst enjoying a cup of chai. There is a wifi place across the road that you can access from the rooftop if you know the password as well.

Sagar Guest House, inside the fort
Cost: 200 rupees for a double room
This was the best guesthouse we had in the whole of India. It was cheap, clean, awesome room with an awesome view, a comfy bed and great bathroom. The manager was the friendliest guy we had met in India. He always went out of his way to ensure that we had the best stay in Jaisalmer. If we needed to get anything from town he would take us on the back of his motorbike and when we offered money he replied “money is not everything, my friend.” He always made sure we were comfortable and arranged our camel safari to how we wanted it. Once we finished our camel trek he kept our room for us so we could shower as soon as we got back, free of charge. The rooftop restaurant was great, a little expensive but had the best view of the wind turbines in the distance and the town below. A highly recommended place to anyone visiting Jaisalmer.

Sri Guru Ram Das Niwas, right next to the golden temple
Cost: donation
Free! Well you have to give a donation. This place has a magical feel to it. It is peaceful and holds 10,000 + people. They all sleep on the floor, outside under the stars together. There is a huge and relatively clean toilet and shower block with odd “peep hole” windows in the toilet doors. There is a basic bucket and water shower and there is huge dorm style sleeping separate for foreign travellers with lockers so you can keep your stuff safe. You can only stay here a short time though, which is a shame because it is right across from the amazing dining hall and golden temple.

Mama’s Guest House, High Bank
300 rupees for a big double room
Although we didn’t stay here Mama’s is a highly recommended place to stay. Mama herself has real charm and personality and makes sure that you are comfortable. Every night she has a famous thali that people have to come early to ensure they get a plate. Great location, cheap laundry and friendly atmosphere.
Mama's famous thali

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