Thursday, 7 April 2011

Rishikesh......Thats it, thats all.

Craneblog part 2.  Waistin' away in Rishikesh...

So since I did my tour in Rajasthan and whatnot I decided to stop being a tourist for a while and plant myself in one spot and get inside this disproportionately large head of mine.  It was pretty much the main reason for me coming to India in the first place.  There was a battle going on and it needed to be resolved with the whole turning thirty, family(most likely), basically the life of a grown man looming.  Well that's enough of that, here's what I've been up to the last month in Rishikesh.  I thought there wouldn't be enough to warrant a blog but I think I got some alright stuff and enough filler to justify me sitting in this internet cafe for the next hour or so and the impending hand cramps so here goes.

"Beatles Ashram"

So Rishikesh is a place dubbed the "Yoga capital of the world" so it is known for its ashrams, laid back style and natural beauty.  In terms of stuff to see the first thing people start going on about is this damn "Beatles ashram".  I put it in quotes because it's just referred to that because this is the place where the Beatles went when they had their little sojourn in India.  This used to be the property of Maharshi Maharesh (spelling?).  The ashram has now gone into ruin because it was taken over by the government of India and left to decay.  I've had 3 explanations as to why the gov't took it over, one from an American tourist, one from a Sadhu(renunciant holy man) and one from wikipedia.  The american said the Mr. Maharesh had some crazy ideas that the Indian government wasn't down with so he had to get outta dodge and all his assets were seized.  The baba said that Maharesh died and he had too much property and didn't set up any sort of system so that they could be managed after he died so they Gov stepped in.  Wikipedia said that Maharesh got into some trouble for taxes and other financial matters so he had to get the hell outta India and big G stepped in and took over.  I don't know who to believe but you all should know how much I love a good conspiracy theory so I'm gonna go with the American.

It kinda sucks that this place went to ruin because when I think of an ashram this place at its height is exactly what I think of.  It's like 14 acres and has all sorts of cool building intermingled with beautiful nature and has a way better feel than these other ashrams which feel more like spiritual hostels. 

On the other hand it's kinda awesome that this place went to ruin because ever since I was a kid I have loved abandoned buildings and this place has all sorts of them.  It was great walking around checking them out and had the requisite amount of spookiness as well.

 Alright, so if you guys are looking to learn something from this "blog" of mine here's one little tidbit for you:  Contrary to what I thought coming into this whole thing, Indians do not like beards.  In fact they have a general distrust of people with beards.  Also, they don't like people wearing all black so when I showed up in Rishikesh with my monster beard wearing all black I had more that a few uncomfortable gazes thrown my way so I ditched the beard and been wearing my fancy little white ensemble that I purchased in Udaipur and all is well.  Another bit of info you my like to know is if you think crows and raccoons are mischievous well just wait till you get amongst a bunch of monkeys.  There's 2 types here.  You got the big black and white/grey ones which are pretty goddamn cool.  There quite the handsome stoic bastards.  Then you got these brown, red-faced guys.  These guys are quite prone to general madness involving roaming in loud gangs, rooting through garbage cans, harassing and intimidating people, hilarious/intense feuds with crows and stray dogs.

Neelkanth hike

I wanted to go to this temple I could see from my ashram so I started walking in its general direction.  Well, after a while (an embarrassingly long while) i realized I was not going the right direction.  Where I ended up was on a pretty cool path heading up a mountain and me being me I just figured I'd get my sweaty self to the top of this damn mountain.  Basically this thing ended up being a 11 km hike out and 11km back, up and over a mountain the size of grouse mountain.  I took it as a good omen that when I started out I had one of the many stray Indian dogs join me for my little adventure.  It took just under 3 hours to get to the top of the mountain and when I felt satisfied enough to turn around I ran into some locals.  It was  a bunch of ladies and a baba and the baba urged me to come with them wherever the hell they were goin so I went.  Basically this is what I saw at the top.

    So there ended up being a pretty cool town in the bottom of the valley and the big thing here was this Shiva temple which is really old and a huge draw for pilgrimage .  When I heard about this it made sense of all the loud ass Shaivites outside my window in the early part of the month when there was an auspicious moon and they were heading to this temple.

   On my way back at the top of the mountain the dog quit on me so we stopped for a bit.  I gave her cookies and water and read while she slept for 45 minutes.  After we got going again I ran into two dudes who I saw earlier so I started walking with them.  One of the guys was a cop on vacation from another province.  On our way down we ran into a Sadhu who was throwing big branches down the path that he was going to use for firewood.  The cop used his means to get the baba to show us his house which was probably the coolest place i've seen.  The house was underneath a huge boulder that had a big void underneath it, then they closed it all in with a concrete wall and put some concrete walls up inside to make a couple rooms.  The place totally reminded me of Yoda's place from star wars.  The cop's buddy was kinda nervous about the whole thing because in his bad english he kinda made it seem the cop was using his position as leverage to get us inside the place.  I noticed the baba seemed cool with it so I went in, but didnt take pictures.  Inside the main room was an open space, a big fire pit(dhunni) and a shrine.  Through a tiny hole in the wall we went even further inside, past another shrine to Hanuman where we were anointed and went to the deepest part of the place.  In here was  hole in the ground where they would go into and do they're prayers/meditations.  We weren't allowed to go in there and to be honest there was no way I was going in there.  It had a trap door and was kinda spooky.

  So after that we made our way back and I felt great.  My body was terribly over heated so I finally went into the cold Ganges river to cool off, which was amazing.  Then I squirted in the eye by a kid with a squirtgun, watched a bull dig a hole in the ground and throw dirt on himself and went to get pizza where some dude gave me a free book.  All in all it probably was my best day in Rishikesh.

Other randomness includes:  Some baba milked me out of 750 rupees( 20 dollars).  He said he needed some plastic for his roof, which he did(250 rupees).  Then, he asked me if i wanted to spend 500 to pay for ingredients for prassad(offering).  It was 'sposed to be some kind of sweet milk thing and I was personally gonna hand it out during this big party where 500 baba's were gonna show up.  Now I had become distrustful of these Sadhus because they are mainly a bunch of dudes who have made the choice to be homeless.  It's supposed to be for spiritual reasons but one gets the feeling that that's not the case with the majority of them.  When this guy told me 500 baba's i reluctantly agreed because I thought I might meet 1 genuine sadhu.  Long story short, 15 babas showed up and the guy I gave the money to basically threw a party for himself.  He hired a band, then proceeded to take the mic from 1 of the 2 singers and sang terribly for hours on end.  I gotta give it to the guy though, he was having a blast so I didn't feel to sour about the 750 rupees. 

  Cows are awesome, I find them hilarious and charming.  They're crap is everywhere.  They also eat cardboard and yoga posters.  Every time I see one doing it I say "Hey buddy, you shouldn't be eating that",  but, what do I know, I don't have 5 stomachs.  I finally fed one of these guys.  It was on holi, which is the festival of colours. People have this coloured powder and they throw it on each other.
(I dont know what the deal with the wet mark near my groin is, I assure you it's not piss)
So, back to me feeding the cow on Holi.  I had some banana peels and pea pods to feed to the first coloured cow I could find but none were coloured so I just fed the first cow I was eating a Yoga poster.


   So when i was holed up in Delhi, instead of going out and getting harassed/grossed out I started watching cricket on tv.  I've always wanted to know the deal with cricket was and they had it all over the tv because they were hyping the upcoming world cup.  Well I gotta admit I've become a fan, its a great game and the people are balls out crazy about it here.  I was gonna go for India but then I found out that Canada indeed had a team in the world cup.  Now thats actually pretty cool considering there was only 10 or 12 teams but then again we were constantly referred to as "minnows".  Our team consisted mainly of migrants from India the south Indies and others.  We only had one team in our division that we had a chance against and that was Kenya and low and behold we beat 'em.  India ended up winning the whole thing. I watched the semifinal match against Pakistan with 250 people or so.  They set up a t.v. at one of the ghats(stairs leading to the river) and it was a blast, people were dancing and lighting off fireworks and playing drums it was quite an experience.  I also started playing cricket with some young kids at the ghat outside my ashram.  We played before the bigger kids came for they're daily match.  One day the bigger kids asked if I wanted to play so of course I jumped in there and showed them that us Canadians can play cricket after all.  One of the younger kids who got me to play asked me what my favorite subject in school was, I said gym and math.  Next thing I know I'm doing math 2 nights in a row and tutoring this kid in grade 9 math.  He needed help with polynomials and I hated those things, but in my old age it wasn't as hard as I remember.

   Anybody seen a falcon catch a snake in a river?  No?  It's cool a hell.

  4 day fast/sensory deprivation chamber/sweat lodge

Ok  the last thing worth mentioning is my 4, well 3and 3/4 day fast.  Basically things after almost a month get really stagnant and in a way thats what I was waiting for because a wanted to fight through it.  What I ended up doing was locking myself in my room and not allowing myself any entertainment, just me, my mind and body (lame?, no.)  I've never fasted in my life so I bought some gatorade type powder and had that with water and thats it.  It was pretty tough.  Day 2 was the toughest,  food porn was running rampant in my mind that night.  So basically it was a full on fast, a bit like a sensory deprivation and kinda like a sweatlodge seeing as I was in a stuffy sweaty room the whole time struttin' around in just my underwear.  I don't know what I got out of the thing exactly but I think it worked just by the fact I feel fully ready to come home now with a renewed passion for things.  Being ready to come back is all well and good but I still gonna make some more use of being all the way over here so now I'm gonna go back to being a tourist and I'm getting outta rishikesh.  Next stop Jammu/Kashmir, which should be good because these places are all higher up in the mountains and therefore cooler.  Alright, thats it.  Thanks for reading friends and family love you all.  Hope all is well in your worlds.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Taiwan and India tour part 1

Well, I finally got my ass to a computer. So here's what I can remember of the last 3 weeks in the next 15 minutes.  Here goes.


This place is the land of the three s's.  That would be seven eleven's, scooters and s.a.r.s. masks.  These masks are everywhere, i dont know if they are safety conscious or big mortal combat fans.  Dumbest thought I had while i was in Taipei: "man this place is like china town, except its all china town". Idiot.

Taipei was pretty amazing, quite clean, really safe and the people are nice.  English is non existent which made it a bit hard for my uncultured self. Basically the only thing i wanted to see for sure in Taipei was Taipei 101 which was the tallest building in the world up until a couple years ago.  This place was different from North American cities in that they don't have a downtown core and then everything spreads out around it like a dartboard.  Things are all over the place.  I mention this only because for the first two days I thought another building was taipei 101.  There was pretty tall building that i could see around my hotel but i only had it pegged at being 20-25% bigger than living shangri-la in Vancouver(which was bang on, booya!), it wasn't until i saw this beast of a building looming in the distance that i realized I was dead wrong.  I checked the wiki on these buildings and shangri is 600 something feet, the imposter 101 was 800 something and taipei 101 is actually 1600 something feet! I saw it in the distance and thought it wouldn't take too long to walk there, it took me a thigh burning hour to get there and.  Anyways, the bulk of my time was spent in this rad park where I would hang out and whatnot and check out people doing tai-chi, wing chung and whatnot. It was a great spot. On my last night of taipei I realized that I was doing my Crane thing and not taking pictures so I went to take some terrible nighttime pics of my favorite park.  As I was walking to the park I heard echos in my head of someone who told me that the park was one of those parks where if a guys is feeling amorous and wants the company of another man, he goes there.  I went anyway, lets just say i got a couple pictures and got the hell out of there. 


Delhi, days 1-3

Well i gotta admit I was pretty pumped when I made my way into Delhi and how naive I was.  I thought I knew how it was going to be and in a way I did but that doesn't mean shit, you still gotta acclimatise  to all the craziness.  I thought that because i work on a construction site and have to use dirty porta-johns that i'd be well prepared, well it was a bit of a shock.  The driving is absolutely crazy.  I've actually gotten used to it though and it works and is pretty entertaining.  The poverty is everywhere, it wasn't that bad until it got in my face when a lady stuck her baby in the window of my car and asked for money.  The car wasn't going anywhere 'cuz of the traffic and when i tried to roll up the window she basically left the kids arm in there.  Lesson learned here: Keep small bills on you so if need be you can get these people out of your face. When I got to my hotel I didnt leave for the rest of the day.  There was so much going on I felt I would be eaten alive.  I finally ventured out just after sunrise the next day before everyone was out so I could get my bearings.  After walking around a while and telling all the shoe shiners that I didnt need a shine I ran into another one of these guys.  I said no but he was real persistent and kept pointing at my shoe and saying "chit".  Finally i looked at my shoe and noticed a big pile of shit on top, disgusting.  I had him clean it up and went back to my hotel.  Damn Delhi.  It wasn't till i was sitting in my room that it crossed my mind that that was the dudes scam and he probably chucked that shit on there,  cuz i didnt step in it, it was all on top.


Agra, home to the taj mahal.  This place kinda sucks too.  Its basically a tourist town and that is it so being a tourist place the people are in your face like crazy.  The Red fort in agra was amazing though.  This place is where the guy who made the taj actually lived.  The taj was ok, it was a bit like a new years party. High expectations, little payoff.  Also i'd seen it a billion times in pictures and what you see in pics about sums it up.

Tordi Garh

We took a bus for a couple hours then do a 3 hour bumpy as hell jeep ride to get to this out of the way village.  This place was amazing.  The hotel was 1/4 of the residence of the ruler of the area that had been converted.  The descendants still live there and run the show.  This place was cool because people weren't asking you for crap the whole time and apparently thats how they want to keep it.  One of the guys in our group was given crap for handing a kid a lolipop.  It was cool to see the village life style and the setting was amazing.  All of us got mobbed by the kids.  They all wanted their picture taken and then to have you show it back to them.  I didnt have my camera out so the just asked me questions.
Them-"Where you from?"
Them-"How tall are you?"
Me-"Six foot one. As tall as that guy"
Them-"How big is your chest?"

Apparently these kids are into wrestling which is why they asked.


This place was pretty good.  Kinda hectic again but I'm getting more used to the whole India deal so it's not too bad.  There was a really good fort here which I didn't take pictures of(sorry katie) and I saw two pickpockets get nabbed in the train station.  Apparently the get hit with a bamboo stick.


Better than Jaipur.  Bit more relaxed and we saw another fort which was actually better than the one is Jaipur and i took pictures!  This is the place where they have the famous blue city where all the homes are painted blue.  Looked pretty fantastic from on top of Meherangarh fort. 

Nimaj Bagh.

Another village.  Not much doing there. Got to see a peacock for the first time.  Apparently there a bit of a scourge.  Your not allowed to kill them and they eat the crops.  The had a bit of a workout set there which I actually used.  I had done much physically except walk and stuff so i figured i'd give it a go.  In the middle of my "sesh"  I realized it was Eric's birthday, weird.  Happy birthday buddy.


Anybody see the James Bond movie Octopussy?  Well this is the city where this takes place. Of the "pur"'s this was my favorite.  Good place for shopping and the people don't bother you as much.  This place is sometimes called the "venice of the east".  Again the james bond movie: Remember the palace on the lake that octopussy stayed at? Well we went for a boat tour around it.  That part was kind of underwhelming but the part where the city is on they shore of the lake was cool as hell, definitely had shades of venice.


We took a sleeper train and went back to delhi.  This time wasn't as bad. I think im better off than I was before.  I still want to get the heck out of here though.

Now I am in Rishikesh.  I went to Haridwar, spent 2 days there then came here.  I needed to go somewhere where i could have some peace and that is what im doing now.  Wont be much to report on for a while I'm assuming but well see what happens.  Anyways hope all is well with all my friends, I miss you all. And a happy birthday to big Ad's as well. Wow that took longer that 15 minutes, more like 50 and I didn't check it over though so.......