Sunday, August 15, 2010

Indian Summer

I may be wrong, but I think I went to India last April. Now I've finally decided to finish off the pile of photos I seem to have dragged with my home from there. I limited myself to taking only one photo per two million people in the country, but even that turned out to be a large number of image files. To help me get through it all, I've decided to split it into two batches, and now I'm done with the first part. Hooray! Look here to see the results.

I'm quite content with the photos, but I'm afraid I made few major new discoveries on this trip. The closest I got to something of the kind may have been when I during transportation glimpsed "Anu's Rear Parts Repair Shop" outside, but I fortunately never got around to taking any photos of whatever they did at that place.

The cheapest flight from Norway to India will take you to New Delhi, and when you get there, you typically leave ASAP for the city Agra to the south. Agra isn't much to look at either, but it does have the major draw called Taj Mahal. Any seasoned traveler must have been there at some stage, and now I have. It was nice enough, but the best part was walking around in it's vicinity and see all the strange sights available there.

Right next to Taj Mahal, but entrance-wise far away from it, I found a Hindu temple that appeared to be THE place to be burnt if you died anywhere around there. Indians aren't more shy about their way to say goodbye to their dead than we are, so I could observe the interesting ritual without feeling bad about it. After a while, unfortunately, there were more people there looking at me than following the burning of the corpse. That was a bit embarrassing, so I left.

The next mandatory stop in the region was Jaipur, yet another chaotic and filthy large city inhabited by several million too many people. Again I just walked around with big eyes and looked at everything. It was mainly modern misery, but also some ancient grandeur. Once upon a time the Indians really knew how to build palaces. One of them turned out to be a cinema with a well maintained interior from the 1950s. Apparently many go there because it's air-conditioned. It was quite chilly, but people kept warm by talking frantically into cell phones, letting their children roam freely about and by laughing heartily every time the movie contained anything resembling violence. Also, at the Raj Mandir Cinema they still have a break in the middle of the movie, in which you can go out and warm yourself and stock up on more popcorn.

While the city of Jaipur may not have that much to offer, you don't have to travel far from there to find some magnificense. Just outside the city you'll find Amber, a gigantic fortress stretching across several mountains and hills, looking almost like you've found the brother of The Wall of China. I was not at all prepared for that, so I was really, really happy to discover this on just an easy daytrip out of town by rickshaw.

By now I had had it with cities and culture. What I needed was calmness and nature. I found this in Ranthambhore National Park, right next to the town Sawai Madhopur. That's the place to go if you want to see a wild tiger or two, and an easy way to get there from Jaipur is by train. I traveled on crazy class. Fortunately the trip isn't too long, so the lady on the seat opposite mine had not managed to bury me higher than to my knees in empty peanut shells when it was time to get off the train.

Despite having the least enthusiastic guides I've ever met, we actually saw both tiger and leopard. This was also all they cared about. The landscape was breathtaking and there were lots of beautiful birds and lovely deer around, but the park rangers just did not pay any attention to them. Then again, if I had been leading a tour through a forest in which I was not on top of the food chain, I might have looked twice at any crows or daisies either.

Anyway, I've put up some photos on my Web site, and there will be more coming along soon!

I'll round off this post with my best line on this trip:

As usual I was wearing my stupid tourist hat, Indiana Jones style, to make sure people understand that I'm not one of them. Also, it makes people notice me, so that if I ever walk straight into a crocodile or something, the people sent out to look for me will not have too hard a time tracking my movements. Anyway, a young boy in the Taj Mahal came up to me and asked "Ha-ha, are you a cowboy?", to which I immediately replied "Yup. Are you an Indian?"

I received no reply. #8D)