Friday, June 19, 2009

ऋषिकेश Rishikesh and हर्दिवर Hardiwar

Early evening on the Ganges River.
Enjoying one of many delicious Indian meals with Liz and Suzan. Eating is just so pleasurable when you can share with friends who love food!!
New Delhi train station. Curious observers.

From Mumbai to Dreamy उदैपुर Udaipur

Liz arrived in Mumbai six hours later than scheduled, as her flight was delayed and re-routed through Abu Dhabi airport. After our joyful reunion at New Bengal (a stuffy and claustrophobic hotel in Colaba), we booked the next bus (16 hours) north-east to Rajastan State.
During our remaining hours in Mumbai, we took a taxi tour to Chowpatty Beach for lunch and our driver decided to take the "scenic" route through the city's slums. It was heartbreaking to see people living in such squalor. We grew silent as we passed through this area, my throat and chest constricted with sadness.

Currently I'm reading a beautifully written and fascinating book, called "Shantaram." It's a true story about a man who escapes from an Australian prison to Bombay, living as a slum-dweller. In the opening chapter he details his first impression of this depressing place.

"As the many motorways became one, and the trees disappeared, clutched at my heart with talons of shame. Like brown and black dunes, the acres of slums rolled away from the roadside, and met the horizon with dirty heat-haze mirages. The miserable shelters were patched together from rags, scraps of plastic and paper, reed mats and bamboo sticks... It seemed impossible that a modern airport, full of prosperous and purposeful travellers, was only kilometers away from those crushed and cindered dreams..." Although important to see how those less fortunate live, we were relieved to board the bus to Udaipur. Like I've said before, traveling has helped me evaluate my life, providing an entirely new perspective. In witnessing extreme poverty first-hand, I'm reminded of the countless blessings I've been given in this life....

This fancy hotel was just next door to our guesthouse. We made use of the pool facility, sipping cool watermelon juice, reading and sunbathing.
Udaipur is known as the "romantic city of lakes" but unfortunately when we visited the lake was dry. This is the view from our "Lake-side" guesthouse, just imagine glistening water where you see a herd of sheep, next to children and buffalo wading.
Royal burial grounds, bathing and cremation site.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Arrival in Mumbai मुंबई

I snapped these photos below, on my first day in Mumbai (Bombay) - June 10th. I had a full day to roam around Colaba district on my own, before meeting up with Liz the following morning. Wow. India! is all I have to say!! Mumbai is a city like no other, more densely populated than any I've ever experienced before. It is home to 13 million people, and I found it shocking to hear that over half of those live in slums.
Just crossing the street is a challenge because you are competing with cows, motorbikes, goats, buses, men pulling ox carts, cyclists, barefoot begging children, and rickshaws. It's chaotic to say the least. A full bombardment to the senses. Smells wafting from perfume shops competing with mounds of stinky trash. Hindi music blaring at top volume, harmonizing with a flow of beeping car horns. New exotic tastes of sugar cane juice from a street-side vendor (probably not the most sanitary, but I've survived), sampling mango candy and dried figs from spice shops...

Goats, cows and motorbikes a plenty.
How these men are able to nap on the noisy street, in the blazing heat, is beyond me....
Near Crawford Market. Betel nut, saffron, cardamon, anise and various other spices.Fabric market displaying rich Indian colors and fabrics. I walked through narrow hallways, along the lengthy rows of sari tailors sipping chai and greeting me with friendly smiles and a welcoming "namaste."

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cameron Highlands and jungle trekking

Discover of Rafflessia bloom. A natural oddity. World's largest bloom. Parasitic fungus. Camouflaged green vine snake along jungle path.Boh tea plantation, looking much like hills of velvet.

Kuala Lumpur

Muslim mosque in Little India districtKL Towers - symbol of modern cityBatu Caves - it's difficult from this photograph to see the true size. Consists of a series of colorful Hindu temples and shrines inside an expansive cavernous space, about an hour bus ride outside the city.

Burobudur Temple and surrounding village

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Jogyakarta, Java (Indonesia)

Ruins amidst a modern city

While touring the city mosques, many Javanese tourists wanted to take photos with us, feeling much like a celebrity just for being "white." I've become quite use to this during my Asian travels.
Posing in front of sultan's palace pools.
Traditional Javanese dancers.

West Bali village and cacao farm pictures