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DELHI

2.4. - 4.4. 2014, travel book part I.

 

Why to go to Delhi

At the start of my journey I planned to visit all three cities of the Golden triangle: Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. With its 15 million people, Delhi is the second biggest city of India and it's been a capital city on and off for centuries. It was the center of power thanks to Mughals who came here from Agra and then for a change thanks to Brits who moved there from Kolkata. I wanted to walk through the Old Delhi and New Delhi and visit the Red fort, Humayun's Tomb, the biggest Indian mosque Jama Masjid, Qutub minaret with an iron column from 4th century and see some bazzars.

 

How to get to Delhi

As I planned to visit a number of states on a route long 6700 kilometers in just three weeks, I spent whole two months organizing and preparing for it. I was going through travel guides and booked all my train tickets, plane tickets and accommodation. I was finished at the end of March and waited for the D-day, when I was finally supposed to depart to the exotic land full of contrasts. But the D-day almost didn't happen. There was a big strike on seven German airports the week before my departure and the airline Lufthansa, which was the company I chose, had to cancel 600 flights. I was counting on the people to have their strikes finished by the time of my departure and hoped for the best. However, I was wrong. I found out the morning before my departure that the whole company Lufthansa is on strike this time! Lufthansa cancelled altogether 3800 flights and with one strike affected 400 thousand people. It affected me indeed as I firstly got completely speechless, then I thought there is a heart attack coming my way but it was quickly surpassed by heavy rage. However, thanks to the fact that I found out about it a day before I was able to find a different flight connection and got my ticket in the end... We arrived to India 5 minutes after midnight, I got my first rupees from an ATM and set out to find my taxi. I had one arranged from my hotel beforehand, as it was easier this way [15 km, 30 min, 600 INR. Prepaid taxi would cost 300 INR + 25 percent for night travel]. Taxi driver took me safely to my accommodation – a hotel in a tiny side street – got his tip and I went straight to bed.

 

Accommodation tip in Delhi

I wanted to stay in Paharganj quarter near New Delhi station and the Main Bazaar street. From the large number of hotels, I managed to pick Hotel Srivinayak and booked it via Booking.com (1400 INR). Hotel was pretty clean, had WiFi and people on reception were very helpful and friendly even though it was late night. The only tiny disadvantage was the location itself, with train station so near you could hear the train whistles all night as the engine drivers showed off their egos to each other. And because I was so lucky to get a window facing the street, there was also noise and music from a nearby Hindu temple. But I guess you can't really chose in India.

 

My experience in Delhi

I woke up the next morning at half past eight and stumbled up to the roof to observe morning madness on the street, trying to picture myself in the midst of it. I got called for breakfast by two young locals who offered their menu in fluent Hindi. And after breakfast it was time to start my adventure. I got in the crowd and tried to ask someone how to get to the nearest metro station. But everyone seemed to be pointing in a different direction and all of them knew I was new in India which I found annoying. I gave up in the end and hopped on rickshaw [20INR] which took me to metro on Connaught Place. The driver pointed out agency, where they tried to force all kind of tickets on me. After ten minutes I managed to convince them that I really don't need anything apart from a map of Delhi, but only if they can give it to me for free. I got on the metro after a while, bought myself a 1day ticket for 150 INR and walked through the gate under supervision of armored guards, luckily passed the first wagon designated for women and set out on my journey. Every beginning is hard.

I got to Qutub Minar station and walked outside from the metro. I was greeted by a crowd of rikshaw drivers who immediately chose me as their victim and each of them tried to get to me first to offer pricey ride to Qutub Minar. Their haggling didn't impress me much so I decided to walk instead. However, it was still a good 2-3 kilometers away and it was so warm that in the end I had to hop from one shadow to the other to get there. While I was walking I couldn't help but notice all the variety of Indian society – Indian families in colorful saris were buying tickets and right beside them were half naked, dirty and barefoot members of the lowest caste, picking up rubbish from the streets. Qutub Minar [250 INR] awed me right from the first glance. It is a 73 meters high mastodon and it is unbelievable how they were able to construct something like this in 13th century. And they even planned to build another one, two times higher. There is the oldest mosque in India right beside the minaret and there are ruins of old tombs and palaces all around the complex. Another very interesting structure is a 7-meter-high iron pillar from the 4th century, which has been resisting corroding process for centuries. Some enthusiasts claim that it was not build by humans, others with a bit more sober view say that the builders from the past didn't use limestone when they were founding metal, so there was a residue of phosphor which created thin layer on the surface that resists corrosion. I was interested in the topography in red sandstone of the old gates and walls and observed green parrots that were building their nests on them.

India Delhi Qutab Minar

Qutab Minar

I took rikshaw on my way back to the metro and my next destination was Humayun's Tomb [250 INR]. I got out on the JLN stadium metro station, waved at first rickshaw driver I saw, squeezed beside other passengers and tried to hide in the shadow [20 INR]. Humayun's Tomb is a beautiful rustic building made from white marble and red sandstone, located in gorgeous green gardens with water ponds. This tomb was an inspiration for Taj Mahal. I witnessed a beautiful sunny day, clear blue sky and amazing silence and calm as there were no people around and there was a nice and needed shadow in the tombs.

India Delhi Humayun's Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

On the entrance to Humayun's Tomb they forgot to tear my ticket so when I was leaving I used the chance and sold it to a young tourist for 100 INR. Later I realized that it wasn't such a good deal because all the tickets to sights in Delhi are the same, including price, so I could have used it for the entrance to Red Fort instead and save myself 250 INR. Also, all the sights are closed on Mondays.

I hopped on a rikshaw outside of the tomb and agreed with the driver that he's going to take me to Hazrat Nizam, wait for me there and take me back to metro station [100 INR]. Hazrat Nizam is a Muslim sanctuary in an old build up area. I had to take my shoes off before I entered and hand them over to a young boy. I remembered the movie Slumdog millionaire and wondered if I ever see my shoes again. The narrow street that started at the entrance soon became a wide-open area with a water pond, surrounded by old buildings and full of swimming local Muslims. As the only tourist I moved slowly towards the sanctuary where the crowd doubled. A lot of people were praying, in one area it was only women who made beautiful rainbow with their colorful saris. I found my shoes on the way back and that young boy only wanted 100 INR for keeping them, but he never got them.

India Delhi Hazrat Nizam

Hazrat Nizam

I went back on metro and got out on Central Secretariat, took a rikshaw [50 INR] and let the driver take me to the parliament and president's palace with a view of India Gate.

Then I continued to the metro station Chandni Chowk and tried to walk to Red Fort. On my way I noticed open public toilets which I could smell at least a kilometer away, however there was a homeless person lying not even two meters away from them. He didn't have shoes and his feet were as black as coal. After a while of stumbling around in the heat I arrived to Red Fort [250 INR]. This fort, made from red sandstone, was built in 17th century and it was a residence of the emperors of the Mughal dynasty till 1857, when the Brits took over and transformed it into barracks.

India Delhi Red Fort

Red Fort

Because I didn't have enough of the heat, I decided to wave off the next rikshaw driver and walked to Jama Masjid instead. I walked along the street Chandni Chowk and passed all the crowds, shops, streets full of cars, rikshaws and bikes. I took a wrong turn and had to ask few times for directions. In the end I reached the mosque, but I wasn't allowed to go in as the prayers were just about to start. Jama Masjid is the biggest Indian mosque, that fits almost 20 thousand believers at once, but I suppose I didn't look like a Muslim. I could see all the homeless people sleeping on the streets in front of the mosque. There was a huge traffic, chaos and noise. It was an incredible contrast and I don't think I would be able to sleep this way.

India 14

Jama Masjid

It was evening time so I decided to find a restaurant. I found one near the mosque and went in to try my first Indian food. I ordered something amazing from the Mughal cuisine and observed others during dinner. They gave me cutlery but the rest of the locals ate with their hands, more specifically with their right hand. Even rice with sauce, in the worst case they helped themselves with a piece of bread.

I took a bike-rikshaw ride after dinner. The driver must have been happy to take me, as I think he was half my size. He cycled through the narrow streets with me [60 INR]. I went in the metro again and got out in New Delhi station, where after few times I was able to find the right way through and arrived to my hotel. I had a beer on the roof, it had 8 percent of alcohol and I found out that rice is one of the ingredients. It cost me 130 INR.

India Delhi traffic

Delhi traffic

Once again, I was woken up by trains in the middle of the night and then by radio in the morning. I went for a walk on the busy street Main Bazaar to take out more money from ATM. In the afternoon I said goodbye to boys from reception and called a rikshaw to take me to Rohilla station, from where I continued my journey to Jaipur.

 


 

 

 

 

  

 

 

  

 

 

JAIPUR + AMBER FORT

4.4. - 6.4. 2014, travel book part II.

 

Why to go to Jaipur

Rajasthan is the 'Land of Kings'. It spreads over the Thar desert and Jaipur is one of its most beautiful cities. In the old days, maharajas used to live in Amber Fort, which is located near the city Jaipur that they built in 1727 as it was more convenient [3,2 mil]. In 1876, future British king Edward VII was expected to visit the city, so maharaja Ram Singh ordered to paint the city pink in his honor and from that time the whole old city is pink.

 

How to get to Jaipur

I bought a train ticket beforehand when I was still at home. It was an AC2 ticket from small station Rohilla [how to get train tickets online see article "Before you go to India", 735 INR, 303 km, 13:10 – 18:5]. I took a rikshaw ride to the train station [120 INR] and for the first-time boarded an Indian train. I found my reserved seat with ease and we were on our way. The really pleasant thing about this second class train coupe was that you can use the sleeping bed during the day too so I lied down and watched the views from a window. We arrived to Jaipur in the evening and when I got out of the train and stepped outside the train station it reminded me a scene from the movie 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'. I took a rikshaw ride, but we couldn't find my hotel. When we agreed that we're in a really desperate situation, I had to turn on GPS on my phone knowing how high my phone bill will be (today app Maps.me helps).

 

Accommodation tip in Jaipur

I had accommodation reserved beforehand in Pearl Palace hotel, which I found on Tripadvisor and at the time it seemed like the best choice because it wasn't too expensive and had good references. However, when I wanted to confirm my reservation a month later as instructed, I got a reply that they are fully booked. I thought it was a bit weird but they didn't accept my explanation that I had the room reserved. So I used WI FI in a hotel in Delhi and found another place on Tripadvisor, Rawla Rawastar and booked it via Booking.com [1500 INR]. It was a family resort in a quiet part of Jaipur, Bani park. Rawla Rawastar is a beautiful family owned villa, which owners rent out their free rooms. You really feel there like you're at home. Later I got an email from Pearl Palace hotel, asking me why I didn't arrive. Well, things like that happen...

 

My experience in Jaipur

As soon as I settled in later that evening, I went to a shop to buy some water. I saw a man sleeping on the road outside on the main street. He didn't even have cardboard underneath him and I was a little bit worried that he'll get run over by a bus because he was so near the bus stop.

In the morning I set out to explore Pink city. I met a camel on my way and later I saw my first Indian cow. I gradually got used to the fact that cows, dogs and pigs are all friends in India and have the right to walk freely around the city just like people do. I was wondering what they all eat but the answer came to me very quickly. I witnessed these animals in groups, eating all the rubbish that was around. And all of the stuff they ate on the streets was returned to the same streets in another kind of way.

India Jaipur streets

Jaipur streets

I walked to the most photographed Jaipur sight Hawa Mahal – The Palace of Winds. Hawa Mahal is a palace with 593 windows, which was used by the higher class to observe the street chaos that was happening outside the royal walls, without being seen. I was surrounded by a group of locals outside of the palace, who tried to convince me to go to their house with them as they promised even better view of Hawa Mahal from their first floor. I wasn't too convinced but in the end, I decided to go with them in the dark alley. They were right, I took great pictures from there and had a chat with the man who tried to sell me at least a ton of gold in exchange for the photos.

India Jaipur Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal

I went in Hawa Mahal from the other side of the building too and walked through all five floors of the palace inside. It had a really nice view from the windows. [350 INR, tickets are valid for 24 hours even for other sights such as Jantar Mantar and Amber Fort].

I visited City Palace [300 INR], which is partly occupied by the royal family. I walked through beautiful pink and yellow palaces, gates and courtyards. The sun started to be extremely hot again.

India Jaipur City Palace

City Palace

I went to Jantar Mantar as well, which used to be maharaja's astronomical observatory, built around 1730. However, I was not really impressed by 18 sculptures showing positions of the stars and astronomical time.

I had time in the afternoon to just walk around the streets and observe Indian life. At one point I saw a cow walking on the street in the crowds, peeking in the shops. No one was surprised by that or tried to get her out of there. Other cows nearby seemed to be interested in a vegetable market because they saw a great chance to get something better to eat than rubbish. I was observing local salesmen, who were hand pressing sugar cane. Right beside them were public toilets, you could have a drink and then just turn around, that's all it took. I was watching rikshaw bikes and their drivers who were carrying such big loads, you could furnish whole house with them. I was trying to keep in the shade and was very careful with each step as I knew that there is a high chance for me to step in either rubbish or excrement.

Video: Bazaars

I had late lunch. Guided by my tour guide I found Ganesh restaurant which is near New Gate. I got to the first floor on the roof of the building, where they had their kitchen and seating. While I was eating [160 INR] I observed little birds, that were flying in and out of the kitchen, stealing food from the pots and pans as fast as they could. I was wondering if they stole some of my food too.

I had to take another break because of the heat, so I stopped in an Indian coffee house near MI road. I felt like in the last century – old walls, slowly turning ceiling fans and a waiter in a white outfit and a white hat running around bringing coffee on a tray. I had two cups as the coffee was good, almost for free even, and I observed locals around me.

I had a really nice chat with the landlord in the evening, who was trying to inconspicuously interrogate me, probably so he could place me in one of their castes.

Next morning, I found a rikshaw driver and made a deal that he will take me to Amber Fort [15 km] and picks me up again in two hours [300 INR]. The Fort was built in 1600 and looked really impressive even from distance. It was Sunday and there was a lot of people around. Young local boy was trying to sell his goods, apparently only for 500 INR. When I was halfway on the hill, I noticed that police were stopping all tourists and formed them in lines. Men in one line, women and children in the other. We were lucky as our men line was in the shade of the fort walls, women had to stand on the sun. I started to count how long this is going to take and when I got the feeling it will be at least an hour and a half I realized that I still have my ticket from Hawa Mahal and skipped the line all together. While I was doing so, I noticed that both lines cross behind the corner – police were strict about the fact that men have to keep standing in the shade. At first glance it seemed funny but I think it was rather sad.

India Jaipur Amber fort

Lines to Amber fort

The tour around Amber Fort was definitely worth it, huge courtyards, impressive palaces, halls for private and public audiences. At one point I was in some smaller archway and local sweeper nodded at me and showed me all the hidden places and corners. He was nice and I felt sorry for him so I gave him a tip. I was looking down from the walls and exactly in that moment a monkey ran on the ledge right underneath me. I almost got a slap with its tail. I saw first cobra in my life when I was walking back, it was serenely dancing in the tones of a man's flute. I met the same boy who offered me stuff for 500 INR on my way back, though the things he was selling suddenly dropped to only 100 INR. Rikshaw driver was waiting for me by then and we went back to the hotel.

India Jaipur Amber fort

Amber Fort

After lunch I said goodbye to the family and went to train station towards my next adventure – Taj Mahal.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

AGRA - TAJ MAHAL

6.4. - 7.4. 2014, travel book part III.

 

Why to go to Agra

Agra is a former capital of the powerful Mughal empire and third peak of the Golden triangle, these days it is a city of heavy industry in the state of Uttar Pradesh. However, it is also a home of the most beautiful building in the world – Taj Mahal.

 

How to get to Agra

I took a train from Jaipur to Agra. I had my AC2 train ticket bought beforehand [705 INR, 15:45 – 20:12, 241 km]. This time I had a horizontal seat on the other side of the isle, so I pulled my curtains from one side, lied down and observed the view from a luxurious horizontal position. I arrived to Agra with an hour delay but my rikshaw driver was patiently waiting for me. I had a reservation in N homestay and agreed with them beforehand that they will pick me up from the station [100 INR]. During the ride, the driver offered that he can show me around next day.

 

Accommodation tip in Agra

I checked Tripadvisor for references before I decided to stay in N homestay, which is a family hotel in a quiet part of the city and it is fairly close to Taj Mahal [via Booking.com]. I had a nice, clean room with Wi-Fi and AC, breakfast was included and the owners were really nice and helpful [1700 INR]. The biggest advantage revealed to be the rikshaw driver that worked for them, the same one that picked me up from the station. Mukul is an intelligent young tour guide, he spent the whole day with me from six in the morning till eight in the evening and he organized the whole tour of Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Baby Taj palace with ease [600 INR].

 

My experience in Agra

Mukul was waiting for me at six in the morning outside of the hotel and together we set out towards Taj Mahal. Morning is the best time to take photos because the lighting is good, it is not so warm and there aren't as many people around [750 INR, there is a discount of 50 INR for Agra Fort and 10 INR for Baby Taj, Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays]. The tomb was built by the emperor Shah Jahan as the last place of rest for his beloved wife, who died during childbirth. It took 21 years before the building was finished in 1653. Not long after that, the emperor's son imprisoned his own father in Agra Fort, which left poor Shah Jahan the only choice to admire his impressive building from afar across the river. At half past seven I had my ticket and walked through a huge 30-meters high gate, behind which I could see a part of the famous Taj Mahal. Once again, I was reminded of the Slumdog Millionaire movie but this time we got plastic covers for shoes so we didn't have to leave them anywhere. Taj Mahal shines with white marble, it is surrounded by walls made from red sandstone and three red palaces as impressive as the white one. There is a big green park in front of Taj Mahal, full of water ponds that reflect the building and behind the palace there is a river Jamuna. After I walked it all through, I sat down on a bench where two water canals crossed their streams and observed Taj Mahal and tourists from all around the world. It was funny to watch how focused they are to get the best picture for their family photo albums. After nine o'clock I decided that that was enough of Taj Mahal and I went to find Mukul.

India Agra Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Together we moved towards Agra Fort [300 INR], which was finished by that silly son of Shan Jahan in 1658. Huge walls from sandstone were really huge. I was walking through the green courtyards, red palaces and halls made from white marble. Once again, the heat started to be unbearable but there was nothing we could do.

India Agra Fort

Agra Fort

After lunch, Mukul offered that he can take me to few shops. I agreed but I told him that the minute someone tries to convince me to buy something, I'm out. He told me not to worry and he was right.

We went to see Baby Taj. It's older and similar to famous Taj Mahal, but really tiny.

We had a bit of time, so Mukul bought some expensive beer, parked his rikshaw in an alley, we had a smoke and drank the beer together. He revealed to me that he only drinks one beer a month.

At the end of the tour we went to have a last look at Taj Mahal, this time from the other side across the river Jamuna. I enjoyed this less popular view of the building and observed a goat that didn't want to obey some little child, cows that were munching grass nearby and smoke that was coming from a distant burial place.

India Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

In the evening I got a ride back to the hotel with Mukul, I picked up my backpack, had a quick shower, said goodbye to landlords and set out to the train station to hop on a train that was going to take me to Varanasi. We became friends with Mukul during the day, so he gave me a big hug on the train station and wished me good luck. To this day we still keep in touch.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

VARANASI

8.4. - 10.4. 2014, travel book part IV.

 

Why to go to Varanasi

Spiritual Varanasi is a holy place for Hinduists, Buddhists and Jains [1,4 mil, Uttarpradesh]. It is one of the longest occupied cities in the world, according to a legend it was built by Indian god Shiva almost 5000 years ago. The city spreads on the right bank of river Ganga with 80 ghats.

 

How to go to Varanasi

I took a night train to Varanasi, once again, I had reservation for AC2 ticket [1250 INR, 20:37 – 10:30, 649 km]. I said my goodbyes to young Mukul in front of the station and went in the crowds of waiting Indians. I quickly found out that the train has two hours delay so I used the time to walk around the platforms. I saw a couple of girls that I've seen in front of Taj Mahal admiring the beautiful building. Now they were sitting on the ground with everyone else. Few meters away I stopped to chat with a girl from Ukraine that was travelling alone and I asked her about the situation in Maidan. She had a ticket to the sleeper car, which has bars on the window and there is 9 people in a coupe, I have to say I didn't envy her. There was a sleeping man in the middle of the waiting room and people were just stepping over him. I observed local Indians that were jumping on the ongoing trains without letting the people from inside get out first. Whenever there was no train on the tracks I could see rats and the poorest half naked Indians running on them, picking up plastic. My train was getting delayed more and more and they kept changing the number of platform it was supposed to arrive to, so we were running around like headless chicken. After three hours it finally arrived, so I found my coupe and my bed. This time I was in the top bunk and my travelling companion, dressed all in orange offered me to sit on his bed for a while. I didn't want to bother him, but he repeated his offer. After a while another man told me in English that maharaja is very surprised that I don't want to sit beside him. Ha, I'm travelling with maharaja, I explained myself and apologized, sat beside him, had a chat and then went to bed. We didn't catch up with the delay and arrived in Varanasi around midday. I got chosen on the platform by annoying rikshaw driver who was stuck to me like glue and I couldn't get rid of him. At least he dropped his price by a third after I talked to him and he took me to old town [70 INR]. He dropped me off at old town because motor vehicles can't go in and I walked to my hotel.

 

Accommodation tip in Varanasi

I wanted to stay in one of the Ghats and have view on Ganga and as a winner I chose Kadereswar B&B on Chowki Ghat [1800INR] on Booking.com.

 

My experience in Varanasi

I got settled in, arranged a tour on the river and went for a walk on the ghats. When it's not monsoon season and there are no floods, it is possible to walk all the way through from Assi ghat to Manikarnika ghat. The neighboring Harishchnadra ghat is one of the burial ones in Varanasi. And right when I was walking through, they were burying an old grandma. Her family, dressed all in white, was walking around the funeral pyre as they were saying their prayers. They kept bringing fire close to her mouth and then put it out, over and over again. In the end they piled up more wood over her body and her oldest son set the whole pyre on fire. Grandma started to burn, I was watching her head catch on fire and so did her body. After twenty minutes the whole thing was on fire apart of her legs, because they were sticking out of the wood. After two or three hours the whole body burns to ashes, which is then thrown in the river. Tourists are allowed to watch the funeral ceremony on this particular ghat, but they can't take any pictures. On the main funeral ghat Manikarnika are different rules however. It is not recommended to get closer to the act of funeral. Burying rituals in Varanasi are not a cheap matter, these funerals cost around 20 – 25 thousand rupees, depending on the wood that is used. The most expensive is sandal wood, that's why it's usually used in a form of swarf. There are 200 to 400 bodies burned every day on the main Manikarnika ghat and the funeral pyre keeps burning through day and night on different spots, either higher or lower depending on the person's caste. Hindus believe that if a person has a burial in this place, it will free him from the karmic cycle.

India Varanasi

Varanasi

I was walking through the narrow streets of the old town. Many times, I had to give a way to cows that were walking around freely, together with everyone else. Especially one street was their favorite, as there were so many excrements that I had no other choice than to walk on dry of them.

As I was walking along the ghats, I've seen half naked beggars, people without fingers who were suffering from leprosy, holy men dressed in orange with their faces painted white and women in colorful saris. At one point I saw about twenty children sitting on the steps, all dressed in yellow and orange robes with their faces painted and one of them was holding trident.

India Varanasi

Varanasi

Around six o'clock in the evening I went to see the central Dasahshwamedh ghat, which is in the middle of the other ghats and is the most colorful one. It is a place of Hindu ritual that happens every evening, and thousands of people come to watch. It is truly magical, five people perform Hinduistic fire rituals for an hour, accompanied by the sound of Indian music and people sit all around the steps and clap, while other people on fifty boats watch the ceremony from the river.

India Varanasi Hindu ceremony

Hindu ceremony

After the ceremony I went back towards the burial Manikarnika ghat. When I approached, I saw a man coming out of the darkness, and as I expected he chose me as his victim. At the start he was polite and didn't bother me much, he was talking about their traditions, about the eternal fire that is kept on this ghat for thousands of years and about the burials. When I wanted to go back, he told me that he doesn't want rupees for himself as he is a volunteer who works for the ghat and that I can donate some money for the burial ghat, so they can use it to buy wood and that he can take me closer to have a look. The minute he said that I knew that I'm not in a good situation, because they would ask for donation in dollars, not rupees. It was hard to get rid of him, he became a bit aggressive and didn't want to let me go.

Before six o'clock the next morning, I was outside of the hotel and ready, and together with one American family we set out on a boat ride on Ganga [200 INR]. It was a start of a beautiful day; the sun was rising above the east bank. The view of all the beautiful palaces and surrounding ghats was fantastic. We observed people as they were stepping in the river, some of them stood in the river and prayed, others were washing themselves and some were swimming. Men were almost naked just with a cloth around their waist and women were in their saris, which made the whole river colorful. Not far away I could see locals washing their laundry in the river, which they then spread on the stairs to let it dry on the sun.

India Varanasi

Varanasi morning

I wanted to go see Vishwanath temple, so I had to find my way through the narrow streets. There was a lot of people around and in the midst of them armed soldiers. It took me a long time before I found the right entrance and as a tourist I had to show them my passport. But then, when I saw that they want to take all electronic equipment from me, I decided that I'm not a naive person and I gave up on that visit.

I was watching Varanasi sunset from the roof of my hotel and beneath me on a little tower I saw a family of monkeys getting nice and cozy, so we watched the sunset together.

In the evening I went back to a boat. I walked to a neighboring Kedar ghat and made a deal with a local helmsman [400 INR]. We set out on the river and the old man kept pointing on the river bank, where the palaces were and very casually, was saying: "maharaja Jaipur, maharaja Kalkata, maharaja Udajpur". We sailed close to the burial Manikarnika ghat. When we were close enough, the old man told me to take a picture as we were in a safe distance. I could see six bodies burn, it was like a scene from a movie. Together we sailed back to central Dasahswamedh ghat, parked on the river and watched the Hindu ceremony again, this time from the boat. There were thousands of people in the boats around us and again, it was magical. My tour guide got thirsty at one point, so he leaned from the boat and took a sip of the water from Ganga. I asked him if it's safe for him to drink it, and he said that he is used to it, but wouldn't recommend it to me...

India Manikarnika ghat

Manikarnika ghat

The last morning in Varanasi, I got up before six o'clock again and for the last time took a walk towards Dasahshwamedh ghat to watch the swimming crowds. Once again, I was captivated by the rituals, people shaving their heads and releasing their hair in the river, people brushing their teeth with a piece of stick, men in orange attire painting their faces white and women sending baskets of flowers on the river. Crowds and crowds of people. I would be able to observe them for days, but at half past seven it started to be warm and people where leaving to get along with their day.

India Varanasi

Varanasi ghats

 


 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

DARJEELING

11.4. – 14.4. 2014, travel book part V.

 

Why to go to Darjeeling

Darjeeling [West Bengal] is famous around the world for its tea production. It is located near Himalayan mountains and for most, it is a stop on the way to Sikkim. For me, it was a place of rest after days spent in cities, I couldn't wait to enjoy and explore the magic of Darjeeling tea.

 

How to get to Darjeeling

There are many ways to get to Darjeeling from Varanasi. At first, I wanted to take a night train from Varanasi station Mughal Sarai and travel across the Indian 'wild west' to New Jalpaiguri. However, the seats on this train were sold out over a month before the journey, and I didn't think it wise to travel in 3rd class. So, I chose to travel by plane to Kolkata [taxi to airport 700 INR, 60 min, 28 km, flight 15:00 – 16:50, 4537 INR, 680 km], where I took a taxi on the airport to train station Sealdah [200 INR], and took a train to New Jalpaiguri [22:55 – 9:05, 1159 INR, 560 km]. I was supposed to arrive to NJP at nine o'clock the next day, but just as I suspected, I didn't. The train was delayed 3 hours and even that was a lucky delay. I found a jeep waiting outside of the train station, to take other people heading to Darjeeling, I got in and set out towards the mountains [3 hours, 110 km, 150 INR]. To pass the time I was observing that tiny blue dot on my navigation and the steep ascendance on altimeter. In three hours of our ride, we managed to ascend 2000 meters of altitudinal difference and at four o'clock in the afternoon I got out on the station in Darjeeling, observed tiny 'Toy trains' and waited for a prearranged lift to Mineral Spring village. Because I didn't want to stay in the big town, I found my accommodation with local villagers in their house. I called Navin from Tarthagata farms, who arranged the accommodation for me and he send a jeep to pick me up. We rode on the hillside's stony and damaged rode and after an hour and 1000 meter descend arrived on the spot. Because the jeep was sent just for me, it cost me 800 INR [1-hour, 20 km].

The journey from Kolkata can be also done by taking a plane instead of train and fly to Bagdora. From there it is the same distance to Darjeeling as from NJP, however you can't take a cheap shared jeep from the airport, instead there are bit more expensive taxis [1800 INR].

 

Accommodation tip in Darjeeling

Whenever it is possible to stay with locals on my travels, I do it. This option was available in Darjeeling, in a small village Mineral Springs, which is approximately twenty kilometers away from the town in a valley. And because I was interested in how the tea production works, I chose Zimba's homestay [31 USD/per day with meals included]. I stayed with a young family, had my own room in a small house, another tiny bathroom house was the place where I was washing myself every morning with water I was scooping from a barrel with a ladle, in tiny kitchen house I liked to observe how they make food on an open fire and all in all I felt like home.

 

My experience in Darjeeling

When I arrived to Darjeeling, I noticed that locals have different faces than in other parts I visited. This time, their faces reminded the ones from Nepal or China.

India Toy train in Darjeeling

Toy train in Darjeeling

When I arrived to Mineral Springs and got out of the jeep, I was welcomed by the landlord, young man Pason. Together we set out back up the steep hill and weaved in between tea bushes towards his house. I was welcomed there by his wife and her brothers. They prepared a cozy and colorful room with big bed, mirror and a cupboard for me. When I got all settled in, I went out to talk to the family to that tiny kitchen house, where they were preparing food on an open fire. After dinner, I went outside to look at the mountain where I could see all the lights from Darjeeling. It looked like a Milky Way.

India Mineral Springs village

Mineral Springs village

In the morning I went to clean myself up to the bathroom house. I took water from a big barrel into a smaller one and then used a ladle to wash myself. It reminded me the times in Cambodia and Philippines. Unlike there though, here it was a bit chilly in the mornings so, a shower like this properly woken me up.

Pason and I went to visit Navin to Tarthagata farms www.tathagatafarm.com. Tarthagata farms is a small resort with natural, cozy and well-equipped cabins. Pason was helping in the kitchen and I talked to Navin and other tourists which were staying there.

In the afternoon I went to help the family to pick tea leaves. Farmers pick the youngest and freshest three leaves from the top of the plant and harvest season begins in the spring, usually at the end of March. These leaves from so called 'first flush' are considered the best and tea that is made from them is the most wanted and also most expensive. Every family in the village collects around 5-6 kilos of tea every three days. They keep some for their own use and the rest is sold to a buyer. This buyer comes on a certain day at an agreed time in front of their house, weighs the family's contribution and continues on his way around the village. There is a big community with around 450 members, all of which sell their tea to a buyer who then takes all this tea and hands it over to one of the 80 Darjeeling's tea farms.

India Tea buyer

Tea buyer

After that, Pason let all the picked tea leaves rest for 12 hours, just to let them become softer and to avoid breaking them in the following process. After that, tea leaves are being kneaded in a basket just like dough for 15 minutes. When the dough is made, leaves are being rolled in little rolls, which helps them release juices. This dough making is called fermentation or oxidation, which is a very important step while making tea. The time it takes for fermentation influences smell and taste of tea. The technique of fermentation on the other hand influences whether said tea is going to be white, green, half-green [called oolong] or black. Fermentation is completely skipped when making white tea, it is even demanded that tea leaves are not damaged during picking, however, when making black tea, fermentation process takes the longest. After this process is done, tea leaves are left to rest again for three hours, until they got brown. In the evening, Pason lit a fire and prepared burning coal. He placed a metal sieve on the coal, put tea leaves on it and let them dry. This way makes about 250 grams of tea out of 1 kilo of fresh leaves, which I was able to buy from Pason for 200 rupees. However, tea of this quality is much more expensive in a normal shop. The price of tea depends on location of the farm, whether it contains whole leaves or just dust and it is divided into groups that define quality. Group of the highest quality is called SFTGFOP.

India Darjeeling how tea is made at home

How tea is made...

Next day we went back to Tarthagata farms and together with Navin and everyone else we set out on a fishing trip, approximately 400 meters away. I was wondering how they want to catch a fish in a river that wasn't deep enough for a tadpole, as it was drought period. But they seemed to be confident enough, they took a bamboo stick and attached nylon string to it with a little hook on which they put insects they found underneath rocks. And then we were waiting. And waiting. Obviously, none of us caught anything, so Navin ordered to cook chicken and rice that day.

I was looking forward to seeing snowy tops of the mountains for the first time. Tourists head out at four o'clock in the morning for an organized viewing trip to Tiger Hill mountain [2590 meters above sea level, 800 INR]. If the weather is good, you are able to see the whole belt of Himalayan tops including Mount Everest, Lhotse and Makalu. The most dominant peak however, is the highest mountain of India and third highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga [8598 meters above sea level]. It's possible to see this mountain from Zimba's backyard, however the weather was a bit foggy so I couldn't see anything.

I was really surprised that tea bushes can grow up to 20 meters. But because it would be hard to pick the leaves, the plant is cut to size of a bush.

India Mineral Spring village Darjeeling

Mineral Spring village, Darjeeling

Pason was praying every morning and evening. In the backyard he had wooden poles with colorful Buddhist prayer flags and I could see him reciting his prayer in a deep voice. He was pacing around the rooms with a lit candle while doing so.

The last morning, I stuffed over a kilo of tea in my backpack, said goodbye to Zimba's and set out towards Darjeeling – NJP – Kolkata. We agreed with Pason that this time I'll fit in the regular jeep, which drives villagers to Darjeeling and after seven o'clock we were on our way [1-hour, 20 km, 50 INR]. At half past eight I got out of the jeep in front of Happy Valley tea farm and waited for nine o'clock when it opens for visitors. Happy Valley is the highest located tea farm, it is 1854 meters above sea level and closest tea farm to Darjeeling. Because it was Monday and tea leaves are not being picked on Sundays, the factory wasn't running. I was still able to walk through it with a tour guide and compare the factory procedures with the procedure that Pason used. There was a difference indeed, fermentation was done more accurately on the demands of English buyers and tea leaves were dried for exactly 22 minutes at 115 degrees.

India Darjeeling

Darjeeling

After the factory tour I still had some time so I decided to walk around the plantations and once again walked through Darjeeling. Before my journey to NJP, I went to use a bathroom in KFC. When I was locking the door behind me, I scratched my hand. I couldn't believe my own eyes – I'm always so careful on my travels and then I end up with a bloody scratch from Indian toilet. You couldn't come up with this stuff. I quickly washed it, sanitized and covered with a bandage but even then, I was angry at myself.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

KOLKATA

15.4. - 16.4. 2014, travel book part VI.

 

Why to go to Kolkata

Kolkata [15 mio people, West Bengal] is a former capital of colonial India and for me it was a passing station to the sea.

 

How to get to Kolkata

The journey to Kolkata was very interesting. After seven o'clock in the morning I hopped in a jeep from the village Mineral Spring to Darjeeling [1-hour, 20 km, 50 INR]. As my train from New Jalpaiguri to Kolkata was leaving at half past seven in the evening and the journey to train station was going to take 3 hours, I was passing my time by walking around the town at first and then went to find a shared jeep in the afternoon. I found one on a bus station, got in and waited for another hour before it got full in capacity with other travelers. In the end, 12 adults and countless children got in. At one o'clock we finally headed out, hooray. Unfortunately, it was an election month in India at the time and all the political parties had a meet and greet with locals in Darjeeling that day. We drove for 50 meters and then got stuck in traffic. After hour of waiting we turned around and went some other way but we ended up in the same situation. After another hour we turned around again and went back the same way as before and stopped in the traffic again. I started to get nervous. I couldn't last in the jeep for another hour so I was just pacing around it. At four o'clock in the afternoon I made up my mind, took my backpack from the roof of the jeep, said bye to the driver and told him I'll try to find a different way. That made the driver angry as he was losing his money. Out of a sudden, the traffic moved though, so I hopped back in the jeep and let the driver tell me off. We left Darjeeling at half past four in the afternoon. Right when we left the town, we had to stop for a bathroom break. They must be joking, I thought to myself. The driver saw my disbelief and suspicion and to prove to me that he's in the lead here, he stepped on the gas. And because the road was indeed pretty wavy, after half an hour, one Indian girl got sick. We didn't stop, so she just leaned from the window, almost got hit by a truck that was going in the opposite direction and threw up. Well, that is something, I thought to myself again. But another half an hour later, different girl got sick from the ride and she was sitting right behind me. Great, I thought, I'll miss my train and I'll get threw up on. In the end she managed to deal with it from her window, so the car was decorated from both sides. Finally, the driver got us to NJP after seven o'clock without killing anyone, but the election parade was waiting for us again. We had to stand on a crossing for a long time and wait for a communist parade to cross. I can still see the face of a young communist leader who was peacefully waving from the car to everyone, including me. All sweaty, I ran to the train station right before half past seven and found out that train is delayed for two hours. I couldn't believe it. I thought, that the train from NJP start its journey there, but obviously not. Now, I had way too much time on my hands. There were beggars all around, lot of them slept on the ground and all of them wanted something. I went to wait on the platform. But it wasn't much better as it was really hot that day and there were clouds of mosquitos that didn't leave anyone alone. I had to move my legs all the time because they took a fancy to my bare legs and feet in sandals. If there was someone watching me, they'd think I'm crazy. The train arrived after three hours, so I found my AC2 and found my bed, all happy. I didn't even mind that the other guys didn't turn their lights off and played cards and ate something with a dodgy aroma. I put my headphones on, placed a towel over my head and fell asleep. Kolkata woke me up at seven o'clock next morning [19:25-5:10, 560 km, 1198 INR].

 

Accommodation tip in Kolkata

I wanted to live somewhere close to the airport so I found my accommodation through Tripadvisor in Salt Lake City, in Esmerald Residency [Booking.com, 1800 INR]. Salt Lake City surprised me, it was a residential quarter with nice shops, kid's playgrounds and pools. It was all nice and clean, not your typical India.

 

My experience in Kolkata

The city of Kolkata didn't impress me much, though. At first, I had to find my way from enormous Howrah station and walked to Howrah bridge to take a picture of it and look at the river and the people swimming in it. I knew that it's forbidden to take pictures of the bridge but the policeman didn't cut my hand off, just nodded at me. I found a boat to take me to the other side of the river and got on it. On the other side I stopped to talk to two young guys and they pointed me in a direction of Victoria memorial. I walked there, but it seemed much further in the heat than it looked on the map. Victoria memorial is a beautiful colonial building, which they started to build in honor of queen's diamond wedding anniversary, but only finished it twenty years after her death.

India Kolkata Howrah Bridge

Howrah Bridge

I didn't have the strength to walk to other colonial landmarks because of the heat, so I took a taxi and at least went to see Hindu Kalighat temple [100 INR]. I walked through massive crowds of people, took a picture of a hand driven rikshaw and drove away annoying beggars. I gave up on the tour of the temple, as they didn't want to let me in with my backpack. When I was trying to find my way back to the main street, some beggar chose me as his victim and stuck to me like glue. It was hard with him and when he finally crossed the line I had to tell him in my language to leave me alone.

India Kolkata Victoria Memorial

Victoria Memorial

I was standing on some bridge, the river under stood too – it was completely black and even bubbled. I was weighing my options about what to do next and then chose to take a rikshaw to metro station, took a ride to the other side of the city and hopped on another rikshaw which took me to the hotel. I was welcomed by a group of young Indian guys, one of which had a toe growing out of his toe.

India Hand driven rikshaw

Hand driven rikshaw

In the evening I went for a walk around Salt Lake City and had a great dinner from Bengali cuisine.

 


 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

GOA - PALOLEM BEACH

16.4. - 19.4. 2014, travel book part VII.

 

Why to go to Goa

Hundred kilometers of local palm beaches, cheap accommodation and great food, tempts almost half a million foreign tourist each year. Goa is a thriving state, it is green, full of palms and almost European – it belonged to Portugal till 1961. I considered which beach to visit, but in the end, I chose the most popular one – Palolem - and I wasn't disappointed.

 

How to get to Goa beaches

In the morning I arrived in a taxi to Kolkata airport [200 INR, 30 min], got checked in for a flight to Goa with a stopover in Mumbai [9:35 – 14:00, 112 EUR, 2560 km]. On the airport in Goa I found two men from Kolkata who were heading to Palolem too and we agreed to join our forces together and got a shared taxi [70 km, 1500 INR, prepaid taxi, 1,5 hours].

 

Accommodation tip in Palolem Beach

Once again I did my homework right and booked my accommodation before my journey in a wooden resort Fernandes Wooden Cottages www.fernandeswoodencottages.com. I chose well, if I came to the beach without reservation, I would want the same room in the same resort [1500 INR]. I was staying in a corner room on first floor with a terrace and a restaurant, with amazing food, there was WIFI and the place had an amazing atmosphere.

India Fernandes Wooden Cottages Palolem beach

Fernandes Wooden Cottages

The peak season on Palolem beach ends at the end of April, resorts are dismantled and new season starts in November.

 

My expereinece in Palolem

Palolem is really breath-taking beach. Two kilometers of yellow sand, surrounded by palm trees, which lean over the wooden resorts with bars and restaurants.

India Palolem beach

Palolem beach

Every morning, hidden in the shade of the terrace, I observed everyone running on the beach. In the midst of them I could see a local old man who was running so slow, it was unbelievable. European girl was doing yoga on the beach. At first, she was doing hopping exercises which would lead anyone to think she's a bit crazy, and then she performed exercises so elaborate, that if anyone else tried, they would break in half.

India Palolem beach

Palolem beach

Every day I went for a swim, for a walk and watched slim Russian girls on the beach.

India Palolem beach

Palolem beach

And every evening I laid on the matrasses in the restaurant, listened to music, drank beer and observed the sea.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

MUMBAI + DHARAVI SLUM

19.4. - 21.4. 2014, travel book part VIII.

 

Why to go to Mumbai

Mumbai was my last stop before heading back home [Maharashtra state, population 23 million]. It is a city of the Slumdog Millionaire, full of unbelievable contrasts. Modern buildings are in a close neighborhood with grey slums. And my journey took me to one of the biggest slums of Asia – Dharavi slum.

 

How to get to Mumbai

I found other travelers in Palolem and we shared our expenses to cover the taxi ride to the airport [70 km, 1200 INR, the whole taxi, 1,5 hours]. I realized that I need more rupees on the airport so I went to the ATM, but right in the moment that the money was supposed to get out of it, some idiots beside me cut the power. That money obviously got stuck somewhere in the middle and I could only be glad that the ATM gave back my card. When I was flying to Goa I could see green palm trees beneath me, but on my way to Mumbai, all I could see was grey slums [13:50 – 14:50, 750 km, 55 EUR]. I took a prepaid taxi on the airport and we set out on the overcrowded roads towards Colaba [470 INR, 1 hour, 30 km]. Even though there are lines on Indian roads, the traffic is complete chaos and the one ones in the lead are the ones with loudest horns. We were on our way, in the sound of endless honking, cars being like glued door to door.

 

Accommodation tip in Mumbai

I wanted to stay in colonial quarters near famous station Victoria terminus. Prices in Mumbai are the highest in India, but I didn't mind and chose Hotel Residency Fort [you can find them on Agoda.com or Booking.com, 3500 INR]. And whenever I was approached by beggars who questioned me about where I stay, I had a name of another hotel prepared – one that was much cheaper.

 

My experience in Mumbai

Right after I checked in, I went for a walk to the famous station Victoria terminus – Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Completely amazed, I stared at the beauty and perfection of the building. I only saw it on pictures till now and here I stand before it. I went inside to breath in the atmosphere of the busy station. This railway carries over 6 million people every day, out of which 2 million people get on the train on this station. Ten people die on a train in Mumbai every day. Whoever have seen the Slumdog Millionaire will be reminded of the final dancing scene on the station. It was filmed right here. And because trains don't run in Mumbai between two and four o'clock in the morning, it was filmed over 14 days. Poor extras didn't mind, for a day of shooting they got 500 rupees. In the year 2008, terrorists were shooting right here during the attacks in Mumbai.

India Victoria terminus - Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Mumbai

Victoria terminus - Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

I was walking towards Bombay High Court and met a young guy who spoke perfect English. He immediately got himself into a role of my tour-guide. He showed me buildings of Indian empire Tat, hotel Taj Mahal and guided me towards the High Court building. He was from Jaipur, went to high school and because he didn't have money for university, he lived on the streets of Mumbai and was cleaning shoes for living. I gave him 100 rupees as a thank you, but he surprised me because he was demanding 2000 rupees instead. He told me it could change his life, because he would be able to buy a kit for shoe cleaning. I felt sorry for him, but I didn't have that kind of money on me.

Bombay High Court is another beautiful building, surrounded by palm trees. In front of it, there is a large field, where what seemed like hundreds of teams play cricket. When I was trying to cross on another pavement, I was scared I'd get hit by a ball.

India Mumbai High court

Bombay High court

I walked to Marina drive, which is a beautiful quayside promenade surrounded by modern buildings. It is possible to see the whole bay from here. It was nice and sunny, with a pleasant breeze, people here were doing sports or walked with their dates.

India Mumbai Marina drive

Marina drive

When it got dark I went back to Victoria terminus and took some evening pictures.

In the morning I walked to Reality Tours and Travel, where I arranged a trip to Dhobi Ghat and Dharavi slum [1400 INR] www.realitytoursandtravel.com. Their office is near hotel Taj Mahal and India Gate memorial and because I was there early, I went to see the famous hotel. Right in front of it I could see a number of sleeping homeless people and some dead rats near them. This was also a place of shootings in 2008, and I could see that the safety of the hotel is guarded by armored cars these days.

India Taj Mahal hotel Mumbai

Taj Mahal hotel

Together with three other travelers and a tour guide from Reality tours and travels, we set out to Dharavi. First, we went through quarter of red lamps Kamathipura, which in 1992 in 14 side alleys was a place of work for over 60 thousand prostitutes, whom offered their services for 200 rupees. Next stop was a bridge near Dhobi ghat. It is a Mumbai laundry room under the sky – three thousand people wash laundry from hotels, hospitals and factories, in 800 barrels. Every worker washes 700 pieces of clothing in 10-hour shift and earn 300 rupees.

India Mumbai Dhobi Ghat

Dhobi Ghat

We were getting closer to Dharavi, the slum from the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Mumbai has over 200 thousand slums and it is a place of home for nearly half of Mumbai's population, however Dharavi is the biggest one and also the second biggest slum in Asia. It was founded in 1840 and there is over 1.2 million people living here on 2 square kilometers. Which means that the population density here is 600 thousand people for a square kilometer. This slum is made by 200 thousand tiny houses placed closely together. Half of these have only one room, 10 square meters big and the other luckier half has more than one room but still fits into 25 square meters. Government is trying to change this, reduce the number of slums and smooth out the huge contrast of the city by offering locals to move into apartments in skyscrapers that are just beside these slums. However, locals are not excited about this offer and decline it, mostly because these apartments are not big enough for a family of five and also because they would lose their livelihood.

India Dharavi slum Mumbai

Dharavi slum

We walked to the slum through a bridge where it was our last chance to take pictures, it was forbidden to take them inside of the slum. Dharavi is divided into many parts, we went to the one designated for manufactories and heavy industry first. There are around ten thousand manufactories in Dharavi and they turn-over approximately 665 million dollars. Workers here are not only people from the slum but from all over India. They work in this highly dangerous environment for 8 months a year, with a monthly pay of 100 USD and then with their slightly damaged health return to their families during monsoon season. The biggest trade in Dharavi however, would be the recycling industry. Poorest of Indians build their livelihood in Mumbai by picking empty plastic wrappers and bottles and sell them for few rupees to buyers, that take them in large quantities to Dharavi. This plastic is then processed by workers that crush it, wash it, dry it on the rooftops and then store it in bags. Economy in slum really does work: doesn’t matter if you need to melt some aluminum or get your haircut – both can be done just few steps away of each other. We crossed a bridge above a river which is more of a still black gutter that flows without any filtration straight into the sea. On the other side of a black bubbly gutter is residential side of the slum. People here live in Muslim and Hindu quarters, which were formed after religious troubles in 1992. Even here are some manufactories, however these are not that harmful to health, so you can find bakeries, barber shops, textile factories and other retail here. It is very busy in these narrow streets, there is a lot of people running, others are taking bath and there are goats everywhere. Water is valuable here, it is led by narrow pipes and only flows from 160 taps. Because it is only available for 3-4 hours a day, locals have to stock up their water in barrels. There are only 700 public toilets in Dharavi which means that 1500 people share the same toilet. At least electricity is available all day and locals can have satellites on their roofs. Streets here are often so narrow that you can barely walk through and there is a sewer right underneath your feet. If you get a chance to glimpse a street with more space, it is often covered in rubbish. Junkyards are illegal and dangerous in slums, especially for small children because they can be a source of horrible diseases. And right behind this pile of rubbish you can see brand new skyscraper. We finished our visit in a quarter designated for leather and pots industry. Local factories are often supplying brand companies abroad that only add their logos to these products.

India Dharavi slum Mumbai

Dharavi slum

I spent my last afternoon in India in shops. While I was walking I observed how young people play cricket on the streets, how bricklayers climb bamboo ladders and how crow eats a rat. In the evening I got in a taxi, headed towards new modern airport and say my last goodbye to India.

 

 

... where to go next? Have a look at my Indian itineraryphotos from my journey or a quick summary before you go to India. If you have any questions, leave a comment, I usually respond within one day.

... do you plan to travel to the south of India? Then look at my second trip to India

 

 

 

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VISITED COUNTRIES

zeme 100

37

KM ON THE ROADS

km 100

48 560

DAYS ON THE ROADS

dny 100

397