India AFTER the Taj

Wow, what a beautiful and yet filthy country so far (in the North). Dirty does not quite do it justice. Filthy barely addresses the litter, sand and feces strewn about the countryside and everywhere in the cities. The sights and people are beautiful though. Well, except for the hawkers, taxi drivers & beggars I guess. Actually, the beggars are far fewer than I had expected or been told about for India. From other blogs or speaking with fellow travelers I expected to be almost constantly marauded. At many busy intersections there are two or three beggars, holding their fingers closed and motioning towards their mouth. They are mostly kids, with some women (always holding a baby) and only one man begging that I’ve seen so far. Luke hasn’t been quite as outwardly affected by the kids begging as Claudette and I expected. The sandy, refuse littered areas (roads, cities and countryside) remind me quite a bit of Goa haven, in Western Nunavut.

We drove on from Agra to Jaipur, a city of about 2.5 million. It is the first ever “planned” and structured city in India. So being laid out in rectangular blocks make life and navigation fairly easy. Unfortunately, the city has long outlived the 40,000 population designed size, and the majestic but narrow seven gates into the “old” city are major traffic choke points. Lots of forts and palaces though! We are pretty much palace’d out I think. The views, the work and the grandeur; they’re all amazing. But there’s just so much to see. We’ve heard the same about old churches and stuff in Europe… they apparently just start to blend together in their looks and historical significance after awhile, (sadly). Tonight we went to a revolving restaurant in Jaipur. It was only ten stories high, but the view was still far reaching because all of the city is typically only three and four story walk-up buildings until you get about 10km out from the relative core where we are. There were a bunch of fireworks being shot tonight which was pretty cool to see from up there too. Sadly, the place turned out not to serve wine. Then (even worse!) when we got the menu’s there wasn’t any meat dishes to be seen. After checking the front of the menu Claudette noticed the “(Veg)” written in small text… I politely asked if we could leave and find somewhere else. The look on my wife’s face said that that was apparently not a possible plan of action. She then ridiculed me further by insisting that surely I find something on the vast menu that was good. And surely I could eat one night without meat. I ended up having mushroom soup (it was OK) and rice, with a little bit of the kids cheese noodles. Yipee… At least we shared a couple of banana splits at the end which made it ever so slightly bearable. Still though, the total bill was $50!!!! For a full non-meat meal in India, I’d say we got taken.

Along this drive we have made a few (non-electronic) purchases as well. Some beautiful table covers & napkin sets, and a fine silk padded bed duvet for a crazy price of $90. These stores all start off saying that there’s no pressure and they serve pop & teas, but when you try and get out of there without buying 20-30 minutes later, the guide directed stores pour on the pressure like crazy. The driver directed stores however have always been nice, genuine, and have the best prices, (by far!).

We’ve also met up with some other Canadians along the route. We saw another Toyota wagon that passed us on the road. On the roof were the same MEC bags we have. I made a sign on a sheet of paper (photo to show up in the picture gallery soon) and had our driver go up beside them when there was no oncoming traffic. They got a chuckle and we both pulled over to chat for a few minutes. They are traveling off and on for a year with four (4!) kids from grades 5-10. We met up again briefly in Jaipur, but got cut short again there. It was a shame. It would have been nice to swap some experiences and advice on traveling. The next evening at our hotel was a single Canadian lady we spent the evening with though. We were doing some areas in reverse and were able to give each other great advice on our future places to visit. Both have blog links that I added to our blogroll list on the left.

We are heading back to Delhi a day early (tomorrow) and skipping a town further South that we were going to see due to a general strike that’s supposed to hit this state on Monday. The state and the federal government are bickering about highways and funding (or control of roads something). The state has organized a blockade of all highways and the police will not interfere, (there is no federal police force like the RCMP). Our driver is very worried and says that any cars on the road will be stopped, people pulled out and the vehicle destroyed by a beating and then burning. Nice, eh… The blockade will show the feds that the state has the real control over when the roads will work. All in all, I have found India to be the most fascist, oppressive country we have visited thus far. Way more so (outwardly, in tourist noticeable ways) than in China even! Clearly India has a thinly disguised democracy that really isn’t. A few quick examples are showing (and having photocopied or scanned) our passport info (or local ID for Indian tourists) for everything from major purchases (over $50), using internet or even just to use a computer, and to stay at any hotel. All four of our passports have to have all sorts of info written down on three different forms at each hotel. This info includes the passport number, issue place, DOB, date of issue & expiry, our individual Visa numbers within the passport, when we arrived in India, when we are leaving India, what town or city we just arrived from, and what town or city we are going to next. Simply crazy…

3 Responses to “India AFTER the Taj”

  1. Luke says:

    Hi everybody

    Just thought I,d tell you if you scroll down you can find the post Mind Your Own Bussines (Class) I posted it a bit late

    And that I am very silly 🙂
    -Alex pretending to be luke 4 the last part)

  2. GRANDPA Ray says:

    Hi to the James Family
    This is my first comment posted on this site, thanks to Vi
    who was nice enough to help me with the set-up. It look like
    everyone is having a good time traveling around the world.
    Monique and Greg have book a trip to Paris France leaving on
    April 23rd. Maybe you,s could meet in Paris?.

  3. Rick says:

    Hey Dad! Great to hear from ya. Well, we will indeed be in France mid to late April and it would be great to meet up with Greg & Monique (if they’ll have us…) as well as Uncle Chris & Auntie Viv that we’ve already tentatively set up. Where are you gonna visit in the world and meet up with us at???