Monday, October 31, 2005

India: An Experimental backpacking to the North & Goa

Part 10

Photo: From my guest house rooftop, McLeod Ganj.

4th day at McLeod Ganj. The best day

The 4th day was the best day in McLeod and most probably most magical and most coincidental. It was my 3rd day I didn’t go for shower- the nitrogen coldness of water.

The sun was shining graciously for the first time and it was good, really good. The is a good quote I would like to include it here, from Khaled Hoseini’s “The Kite Runner” , a novel about life of two best friend, each separated by the different class of society but bonded like a blood brother and shaken by the unforgetful incident and eventual Russia invasion in the 1970s Afghanistan. It was a story about friendship, separation, lost time and redemption. This one of the novel that has every guts to pull every emotional string in your heart to sing and sway to the beat of the world. Anyway, the quote goes: “ Better to be hurt by truth than to be comforted by lies”.

It was a beautiful day. So I took a lazy jazzy walk towards the direction of Bhagsu. Walking to Bhagsu felt like walking on the edge of paradise. The street was narrow and are without any sort of fence. The beauty of the nature, mountain, colored by grayish of tiny rocks and greenish grass and bluest of the sky- You wish the time would pause for you to close your eyes, breath in really hard and exhale to the nature in peace.

Thirty minutes after walking without realizing it, I reached a point where the was a waterfall. The water was flowing from the upper of the mountain, running down splashing on the rocks to the bottom of the river. The sun was as high as before and were still shiny. Locals were doing laundry on the waterfall, animals like sheep, goats, donkeys and cows were busying eating grass.

I bum into Elisabeth (Kee’s friend) while on the way back to central McLeod. After a meaningful conversation and a string of walking around enjoying the landscape of beautiful McLeod, we split and that was the last time I saw her. Then I decided to walk like a stray dog, without direction to kill any possible or eventual boredom of being alone. I ate a variety of street’s junk foods.

There was this stall that was selling something that look like baby sausages, black in color. It smells good. I was tempted so I approached the old lady who sells the black sausages. I asked what’s the food like a foreigner but apparently she didn’t speak English. So I just asked if it was a chicken sausage and shot her the look, the please-nod-yes-if-you-think-it’s- chicken sausage look. And she nodded so I brought a small plate. It taste funny but eatable but I was already begin to suspect it was something fishy. I finally decided to asked one stranger standing at the entrance of Peace café and to my amazement he told me it was a blood clog mix and fried with doll. The blood was from the goat. Not that I wanted to puke, but I decided it was too much a piece to chewed. And for two hours of so after that I just enjoying McLeod walking alone, contemplating a lot about nothing.

I decided to rest for a little while by stopping at one of the sidewalk café. The café was playing Elton John’s “Candle in the wind” and “Sacrifice” . I ordered myself a Japanese green tea and lay my back on the wall of the café, looking out to the view of the mountains.

My all time Top 5 singers/Band:

1. Eric Clapton
2. Elton John
3. The Beatles
4. Guns n’ Roses
5. Nirvana

As I was seating sipping my green tea, enjoying myself view of the beautiful and gorgeous landscape. There came along the most beautiful brunette girl I ever seen. She walking alone, smiling at something I don’t know, looking around her surrounding. I can’t express this but the feeling of mine laying my eyes on her that day as far as I can remember, was serene, happy and very smiley even though she was just one of the many stranger in McLeod. Not only she was smiling happily but she was walking with little hopping like a child going to the garden or like Alice going to wonderland. She was dressing an outfit so simple, a jeans and a baby T with cardinal. I kept looking at her, non stop as she was the girl of my lifetime. The more I look at her the more it ring a bell in my head that I somehow knew her.

As she walking by, the familiarity was starting to develop a picture so clear in perfection in my head. I still couldn’t figure out who was she? Was she someone I fall in love in my past life?

And out of the blue and suddenly, …abracadabra, I remember her. I remember the girl and thanks God it was not someone I knew from past life. Yes. It was still the most beautiful real life brunette I ever met in my life; Kathrin from Germany. One of the two babe I met in Udaipur. Just when I thought I was all by myself for the rest of my stay, I saw someone I never thought of seeing again. So I walked to the edge and shouted out her name so loud, at the top of my lungs and in big surprise I couldn’t feel nor gasp. I was actually hoping it was her. And when she turn around and responded to my calling, her blue eyes caught mine and she was uttering my name is slight hesitation.

I invited her to the sidewalk café and we had a drink for a while before I walked with her, cruising the long walk that lead to the Dalai Lama temple. Our view were passing through the view and landscape of paradise.

Strange it may seems, and it really seems like it had been a years since the last time I saw her but the fact was I had seen her only last 2 weeks or so in Udaipur. If I am John Mayer, the guy who sing “Your body in wonderland” and I have the right to cast the girl for my MTV, she will definitely in my MTV.

Kathrin just arrived from Delhi that day when I met her. Her friend, Maria, suppose to arrive day after. We walk in circumference direction in the Dalai Lama temple. As we were walking, we also spinning the “mani prayer wheels” along the way. This wheel is the symbol of Tibet. The wheel is filled with thousands of Avalakit eshwara mantras “Om mani padme thum”. he believer believe that by turning this wheel once one earn merit equal to the recitation of the mantras filled inside the wheels. The wheels has to be turned in clockwise direction and it may find you peace and happiness.

In the temple, Kathrin & I befriended a Tibetan student aspire to become a monk and a 18 years old Swiss girl. It happen that the Swiss girl was staying in the same guest house and if that is not coincidental enough, her room was just two step away from my room. The monk soon-to-be, Jam Yang and the Swiss girl, Florine, Kathrin and I spent the rest of the evening watching the sunset from the Dalai Lama balcony, on top of the mountain.

Then I left them and meeting up with Jorgen & Hannah in Sunrise café which is a small hut café, lighted by neon light, and self proclaim serving the best and cheapest tea in Asia. It was very hippie look-alike shop. In the shop, we met with a white guy, a hippie look-alike. He was kind of eavesdropping at our conversation and occasionally showing some facial interest to join our conversation. His name is Luke and he is 23 years old chap from Melbourne- Australia. He is a self employed and part time poet. He is in India for about 6 month already, with hope to cure his writer’s block. It was a very interesting and full of intellectual, dogmatic conversation, from social economic to politic and illegal war, anti establishment, religion and freedom of traveling.

That night was the last night for Jorgen & Hannah. We celebrated by smoking up with fresh air at my balcony. When the sun shine early morning- they were gone, to Manali.

5th day, McLeod Ganj

After having 2 plates of omelets, hot tea and butter toast bread for breakfast at Sunrise café, I took a walk towards the same way that lead to the Dalai Lama temple. It is the same way where you will walk over and over again, because it was blessed with serendipity view and atmosphere.

At moonspeak café, I saw Maria, friend of Kathrin whom I also met in Udaipur. It was exactly the same place where I saw Kathrin. Together we were walking to the direction of Dalai Lama temple, to the temple, passing through many shops and temples. We were suppose to walk in circumference but somehow we didn’t knew so we ended up walking the other wise. For couple of hours, we just exploring the place and eventually we were back in my guest house. We hung out for a while at my rooftop, and she left after a coke.

6pm, I met up with Maria, Kathrin and Kyle, the American Chinese traveler whom also I familiar with (also in Udaipur) but never talk before. Kyle turn to be a very interesting and friendly guy, just like most traveler.
As the night usher in, we went to Om café, a café that offer us a wide and spacious place that overlooking one of the most greatest view in India. It was so great that the tables was fully occupied. But we were lucky to bum into this lone traveler from Israel who happen to seat alone. Shai was his name. Another interesting guy who traveled to China, Tibet, Mongolia before India. Like many Israelis, Shai started traveling after the compulsory military service. While we were waiting for our foods to be served, out of the blue we were surrounded by the gathering fog. It was crazy like we were stuck in the cloud #9, with nice restaurant in it. We couldn’t see anything further than 5 meter. This place is so beautiful that I began to rethink of my departure date. I was thinking of leaving tomorrow but somehow I was reluctant to go. I just met with the girls and Kyle and we had so much to share in common and interesting topic to talk about and moreover, McLeod is so freaking gorgeous, blissful that I wish I can stuck there forever.

We took a walk after dinner and when we finally reached central McLeod, I decided to break it out to say goodbye to them and the place. And it goes, “ OK guys, it is nice to meet you all here and I guess it is time now for me to say goodbye” and Kathrin with her melancholy face look at me and say: “ Oh no…but you can’t do this Peter, this is so beautiful, you cannot leave…you still have to show me the place”. At that moment I feel like I didn’t really want to leave.

The reason I wanted to leave was because I was there for 5 days already and I think I should have move on if I want to go to more places. Then I realize why the hell should I move since I had abandoned the plan to go to Leh, Srinagar with Hannes? Plus I had too many days remaining in hand and I could easily stay for more. I was ahead of my planned schedule.

Then I wasn’t sure anymore if I stayed more days because of McLeod Ganj or Maria, Kathrin and Kyle. I guess it was both, the place and the people.

As we were walking passing through many cafes and restaurant and Cinema 1, Kyle pull out the schedule of the monthly screening movie for Kathrin and she was like: “Oh no…this crazy hippie movie…, I had watched movie when I was like 14 and it was a crazy movie”

I was curious and I asked, what movie was that? And to my big surprise, she replied Oliver Stone’s Doors. There it was, then and there I decided to stay another day for the movie. It was a movie starring Val Kilmer. It is a movie that I was searching for a very long time already, from Malaysia to Thailand to India. It was a movie I wanted to watch so damn long ago but wasn’t available.

6th day, McLeod Ganj

On the 6th day God made….ah, let’s do it again. On the 6th day, I didn’t much thing but the same old routine.
We met again for dinner at the same restaurant. We went to a fusion performance somewhere down the hillside. They charged Rs. 50 per entrance. Maria and I decided not to go in because we were already late for an hour plus, it was nothing special to us because we had seen better one. So we walked to one of the small shop that serve Chai.

When we finally met again, we went to the direction of Bhagsu. And we stop midway where a little out of the way, there was a place where no one knew. We just lay our back and enjoying the full moon view, listening the night splash of waterfall and talking the night away. It was a silent night, so silent that maybe you could listen to the ant whisper. One dog was with us all the way until we were there, staring at the moonlight. We name him Buddy.

So I kiss the girl on the cheek as a mark of farewell as well a bear hug for Kyle. I left the day after that, after watching Doors and brief drink at Moonspeak café with Kathrin, Maria & Kyle.

7th day, McLeod Ganj

Song: Hurricane by Bob Dylan

When it is the time to go, you will just know it. It is really hard to say goodbye, to Kathrin and to McLeod. I really love the thing that I was doing then. I was quite bluesy as my traveling is approaching to an end. I still couldn’t figure out why I left. I had many days in hand but something is calling me home. I guess at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter and it is better to leave it there to be a mystery, I mean, on my the fuck I left.
When you are traveling, things are very much different.

From the thing you see to the think you touch to the think you feel and from the people you meet to the places you been, it is all fucking different. I couldn’t explain here the big differences but to put in a nutshell, I think we became more sensitive towards everything surrounding us when we were traveling. The sound of nature became purer, the grass suddenly became greener and trust me when I say this, somehow you will grow fond and sentimental with the places especially a place like McLeod Ganj. Everything was like in a movie. When I took that local cheap government bus to Pathankot, I was all by myself, seating by the window and there I was feeling like a bad ending of a romantic movie.

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The Donkey was having lunch, on the way to Bhagsu, McLeod

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India: An Experimental backpacking to the North & Goa

Part 9

Photo: Mani prayer wheels

15. 09.2005

There was lots of Hebrew speaking travelers in the same bus with me. Of course these people are without doubt, are from Israel. There were also lot of pretty good looking girls were traveling with them, or at least they seems to stick together. While the guys, most of them have an attitude of ignorance hippie, the girls on the other hand, were pretty looking, almost all of the. Wait. Did I say pretty looking already?? Anyway, yeah, that was it.

I was seating alone by the window and my brother was on the other side. So when I saw raining of pretty chicks on my bus, I was rather hoping that one of them were end up seating up beside me. I mean c’mon…there were about 8 of them and I was thinking how low can be the probability of me hitting one of them. Anyway, my luck was way down low. Not only did I end up with one of the pretty looking chick, but a fat Indian guy.

If there is not enough, he was so big and wide that he took most of the space. And his had a mobile phone that is ringing most of the time, and most of the time it was with that annoying and irritating ring tones. God bless. Tell that to a person who not only didn’t get any of that pretty looking Hebrew speaking girl but a fat sweaty Indian guy with annoying ring tones, and he would show you a middle finger and “da’ motherfucker look”
Shanti Shanti… (Hindi word for calm down or cool down)

I couldn’t remember most of the night. I slept peacefully. And when I woke up 5.00 in the morning, we were already in McLeod Ganj. The weather was very chilly and cool. This place is the most anticipated one and the most highlighted one ever since I started my traveling. Lot has been said about this place, that one should not miss this place if one were to travel the North or as a matter of fact, India. So this place was the only one with high expectation and through out my unplanned 7 days stay here, I must confess that it hasn’t let me down even a bit. That’s why McLeod is place top in my all time top 5 places to visit in India.

My all time top 5 places to visit in India.

1. McLeod Ganj
2. Goa
3. Hampi
4. Manali
5. Udaipur

You will know why McLeod is number one as I write on. With little help from a friend, Mr. Lonely Planet, we found a budget guest house at central McLeod- Kelsang guest house. My brother and I met a very friendly old Tibetan couple who probably about to warm up for morning walk. They were kind enough to walk with us until the view to Kelsang was visible enough. McLeod Ganj or upper Dharamshala, is the home to many Tibetan people who live in exile. It is a home to His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso.

When People Republic of China (PRC) under Chairman Mao invaded Tibet in 1959, lot of monasteries and temples were destroyed and lot of civilians were killed. This was part of Mao’s Cultural Revolution and one of the reasoning given was Tibet was once part of Mogul empire therefore legitimately belong and part of China.
In order to avoid more casualties and to continue defending hopeless resistance, the 14th Dalai Lama decided to leave Tibet and ever since then, together with some of Tibetans, had live in exile in Dharamshala, India.

There, His Holiness established Tibetan Government in Exile and had been vocal in Free Tibet campaign.
Immediately after checking in, we didn’t waste much time, so we jump to the comfortable bed to catch a nap that seem forever and endless. But we were awaken by the sun that shone happily in McLeod. After a shower (the cold shower was extremely cold that it burn like a nitrogen), we went to Kelsang rooftop restaurant for our first breakfast. The view was majestic, awesome, overwhelmingly beautiful. Probably the most beautiful view from the top I ever seen ever since I started my traveling in India. Geographically we were already high above the sea level. Below us was some mountains, hills and houses was built on the body and shoulder of it. And it was colorful. The colorful houses was being surrounded by the mighty and chilly pine trees, and above them was covering by the fog. The air we breathed was chill, cold and few proud eagles were spreading their wings flying in complete freedom. What else could I say apart from feeling like I was in paradise.

I sat down and allowing myself drown by the beauty of the view lay in front of me. That morning in that rooftop, I ordered my first Tibetan food, fried momo. The waiter that were serving us, whom later became our friend, was Suni, a Nepalese guy. We had all the time in the world and we knew that we had nothing to rush, so we enjoyed there for a longer time, having meaningful and educational conversation with Suni. He was telling us about some important historical sting of events that happen in Nepal, Pakistan, India, China and Tibet. He was indeed the guy who know what he was talking about.

The weather was mellow but thanks God it didn’t rain. It was just cold and the inconsistent fog were gathering, at time it was too thick that we couldn’t see more than 10 meter in front of us. As I wandering the bazaar, looking for shirts and other souvenirs to shop, as usual I ended up in a bookshop and I brought Khaled Hosaini’s “The kite runner”, a book I remember my friend sabi was reading. Prior to that, I had spent quite some money on shirts, belt and some incense.

I don’t know what with McLeod, but since my arrival here, I felt that I am at peace with myself. Something so powerful inside was making me feel like I am at the safest place in the world. The Tibetan people, the monasteries, the temple and greatest view of the mountain, the green are all part of the things that make me feel at peace. It was really nice and blissful.

As I was walking I saw someone walking towards me and in that split seconds, while every cells in my brain trying hard to ring a bell, I somehow knew that I had seen and to the extent knew the person walking towards me. It took me less than 3 seconds to recognize them. It was Martin and Ina. Wow, again, India prove to me that it is indeed a very small country or may be the world is really our playground. The last time I seen them was when I was hallucinated, intoxicated and completely in the state of delirium during my supposed last day in Udaipur. Then, it was not a proper farewell. For a while, we both seems to be lost in conservation despite the facts that we were close during all those month in Pune. It seems like I just met a stranger. Our conversation were jerky, sporadic and at time, lost.

Anyway, after the usual generic question of “What’s up?”, “How’s traveling?”, “Where you been?” etc, our conversation kind of blended well to the good old times. It was already their second day in McLeod and they will be leaving for Goa in two days time. So we went to Peace café, for a couple of drink. We brought some fresh friend/steam momo from the street, back to their rooftop to catch up some lost moment in between our traveling. Their view was as majestic as ours. And just before we could plan our plan, the rains come down on us like cat and dog. We were stuck in the room for about three hours and the rain was still on. So martin decided to run down soaking wet to get a bottle of Old Monk Rum, soft drinks, momo (again) and junk foods.

And there it goes, we were stuck for another 2 hours before the clock point to 8.00 pm.
So I went back to my guest house to check out what’s up with my brother. He was stuck too, but in our room. Our neighbor was a 20 year old girl, lone traveler, from Montreal, Canada. She was a nice and social able girl. In my opinion she looks like the 16 years old Diana DeGarmo. Anyway, we were caught in a conversations concerning many topics.

Day 2, McLeod Ganj.

At around 8.30 am, I woke up to the second sunshine in McLeod. I don’t know why but whenever I was traveling, I always wake up too early, sometime even before the sun came out from the hiding. I guess in all my unconsciousness, I wanted to see as much as possible by prolonging the time hence I wanted to breath the morning air as well as to feel it on my flesh. I had a vegetable noodle and milk coffee for a breakfast. There was a bunch of Korean travelers, sat opposite my table. The rooftop restaurant of Kalsang guest house had a very natural and beautiful setting. The one we hung out the day before was under the sky, open air area. Second day, I had my breakfast on the inside. I exchanged books with the guest house, two to two, my Gregory Roberts’s Shantaram to Leo Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God & Peace essays and Neale Walsch’s Tomorrow God to Douglas Adam’s Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy.

Song: Ruby Tuesday by Rolling Stone

I met up with Martin and Ina and together we took a walk by cruising down the slightly wet road to visit the one and only St. John church. It was a approximately 1 km walk. We passed many beauty scenaric views, like the misty mountains, foggy hills, pine trees on the shoulder of the almighty hills, authentic Tibetans monasteries, temple and houses. We also befriended with a dog. This dog, we name him Momo, after the Tibetan dumpling, were following us as in he was our guide.

The inside of the church was unbelievable. The church was already shut down, left only the memory of yesterday. The front yard was completely green, green grass and the green, green trees. There was some cemeteries in the surrounding of the church. So, after we took a few photos, we walk back to the centre McLeod.

Then I met up with my brother to the Tibetan music. The museum was very near to the Dalai Lama temple. The museum chronicle the history of Tibet and how they fled from the cruel invasion of People Republic of China. It also chronicle the life of great Mahatma Gandhi.

While we were in the bookstore, we bum into Kee and his new found French friend, Elisabeth. Soon after, we also bum into Jorgen & Hannah, the German couple we met in Jaisalmer desert during our Camel safari trip.
The road that lead down to the Dalai Lama temple was wonderful. It was filled with sidewalk cafes, confectioner and bakery shops, bookstores, souvenir shops and most of all, the 3 km walk to the Dalai Lama temple was blessed with what I would like to call the walk of life- because it was with the most beautiful mountainous view I ever seen. The objects at bottom of the foothill is like a tiny dust I look through the lens of microscope. The wind was slow, nice, easy and steady. The fog were gathering and moving in lump and the weather was chill. The walk of life is like taking a seemingly endless lazy walk on the garden of paradise, if there is ever a paradise.

Travelers were chilling in their own and respective coffee shops and engaged in their interesting conversation.

In the evening, my brother, Martin, Ina & I went to one of the most interesting place in McLeod. Not widely aware of such place by many people, we learn it through Veronica, the girl from Montreal.
It was like an institution that provide educational opportunity to the young Tibetans refugees. This institution providing some kind of political asylum and protection. The young bunch here are the young bunch that has escaping from Tibet. These people are not allowed to go back to Tibet for to do so, mean they might be facing some cruel punishment or sort of harassment from the government of China. In order to create an awareness of the state of affair of Tibetans to the world, and also to develop their English speaking skill, they organize a daily hourly session for their students to meet with us foreigners who would like to know more about the struggle, pass and present state of Tibetans.

Here’s some fact I acquired from the Lamu, a 25 years old student during our one to one meeting session. Most Tibetans people that are present still there in Tibet are not being allowed to speak and write in their own Tibetan language. The official language is Mandarin and they had the condone them as a official language. In school, they were made to learn and study in mandarin. Most historical and cultural study about Tibet were being banned. This lead to the consequences of the children of Tibetans and young generation being ignorance of their belief, cultural and historical study. They don’t even speak Tibetan.

Those who attempt to escape from Tibet for political reason or trying to seek political asylum in India or any neighboring countries, face harsh punishment.

As of today, they were 85000 Tibetans in India, 14000 in Nepal, 1600 in Bhutan, 7000 in USA/Canada, 750 in Europe/Scandinavian, 1000 in Taiwan, 220 in Australia/NZ.

After the conversational session with the Tibetan students, we went to Jimmy’s Italian kitchen. There was a kind of get-together with group of Irish travelers and a British couple for Martin & Ina. They met in Amritsar. We were invited to join them in the most trendy pub in central McLeod, McLo. This is a pub personally endorsed by Hollywood actor/James Bond Pierce Brosnan.

The pub were playing some of Queen’s greatest hits. We met up with 3 Irish travelers; Ross, Jimmy & Kurt. With lot of beers, good music, great atmosphere, we chatted away the night. I couldn’t remember how long we were chatting until I realized that behind our table there was group of travelers as well. I accidentally turn around and saw an Asian girl whom wearing sweater with AIESEC logo on it. Beside her was another Asian guy. They turn our to be trainees from Delhi, specifically a place name Gurgaon, where I was partying last year.

And yes the world was indeed our playground. These two Asians (Taiwanese), through AIESEC network, knew my friends back home. And I also know some of their trainee friends in Delhi. The Taiwanese girl name was Hermosa, strange name but what the hell. She stayed with Amelia, my friend from back home when she were in Malaysia last year. And there it goes, strangers met and strangers talk away the night like a buddy.
At this time around, I was already drowned quite some amount of beers and I went up to the rooftop. There I bum into Hannes again, for second time. First was in Jaisalmer. He was with group of Israelis travelers and they were planning to smoke some pot. I joint them much later in their room.

3rd day, McLeod Ganj. Goodbye & Hello.

Time moves on so was life. That was it, without even realize it, we were already in the third day. Tomorrow I am planning to leave McLeod even though it was the most beautiful place I ever seen in India. My morning had broken by the shiny morning sun, blazingly shining down its burning light, signaling to the eagles to fly higher and freer. After breakfast, I sent Martin & Ina to bus station for they are leaving for their last traveling stop- Goa.

Then it is my brother’s turn to leave. Third day in McLeod was his last day of his three weeks in India. There he left. Suddenly I felt a pang of loneliness is surrounding me and for the first time since I started traveling- I was actually alone, as in alone- without anyone I really know to meet or travel with. It might sound as a bad thing but I view it and take it as a good thing. I mean I always admire lone traveling and now I have the opportunity to do so. I have all the time of the time in the world to do whatever hell that is appropriate (or inappropriate), who the hell care anyway…

The pang of loneliness was a while only for I couldn’t remember how it felt because soon after my brother left, I took my first afternoon nap ever since I started traveling. And when I open my eyes again, I knew one thing, that I was alone and I didn’t have any idea what to do next. Gradually, I also come to term that I don’t have to leave the beautiful McLeod day after, that I can leave the place whenever I damn please. And I also realize one of the most important in life, that I was really starving and my stomach were drumming. So I need food.
I brought myself to the central McLeod, about less than 5 minutes walk from my guest house. There I met Jorgen & Hannah, having their dinner at Hot Spot restaurant. I joined them for dinner and they invited me to their romantic rooftop for a round of joint.

I pursued my lonely night by treating myself a movie at movie den, opposite Hot Spot. It was like a small room, fully equipped with sound system and giant flat screen. They were showing 7 years in Tibet starring Brad Pitt. Strange though, when I watched it for the first time sometime ago, I fall asleep and I think it was kind of boring. But the second time was real. I was watching the movie surrounded by the real people, real monasteries, real atmosphere and for that the movie almost made me wept. It is like the closest you to the place, the more pain you will experience, and the more related you will felt.

The majestic view at Looseling guest house (where Jorgen & Hannah stayed) that night was more beautiful than beautiful, sexier than sexiness and more romantic that Romeo hiding under Juliet’s balcony.
We smoke two joint, with some acid jazz played on CD player. We bade farewell to the night at around 2 am. I walked back in complete stone to my guest house.

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Evening View of McLeod's Sky

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View of McLeod Ganj

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Me & Maria @ The Dalai Lama Temple

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Saturday, October 29, 2005

India: An Experimental backpacking to the North & Goa

Part 8

Breakfast: Spanish Omelet, Milk Coffee & Chicken Veg Soup


Manali literally means the 'Home of Manu'. Manu is the mythological character who is supposed to have survived when the world was drowned in Flood. He then came to Manali and recreated human life. Thus, the area of Manali is sacred and Hindus treat the temples over here as pilgrimage. With altitude of 1950m and 3000m above sea level, Manali is a cold place with sun rarely find its place to shine on Manali. Manali offers the best of northwestern Himalayan beauty, second only to Kashmir valley. The twin towns of Kullu and Manali, approximately 40 km apart lie on the Beas river valley. The Beas river if snow fed by scores of tributaries originating in the glacial peaks surrounding the valley. The highest peaks average 6000 to 6500 m above sea level.

Again, we were promised a semi deluxe bus but turn out to semi crappy bus. It was raining cat and dog that night. The road there were bad and full with pot holes. Plus, the bus driver was a psycho driver with an attitude. He stopped whenever he like and he was pressing the honk more than he hit the brake paddle. Lucky for me, it was not a full bus and the back seat (number of 5 seats) were empty. And needless to say, I conquered the 5 seats as my bed. As the night usher in and we grew much more comfortable in the bus, we started slowly to doze off.

We reached the foothill of Kullu valley at 6.30 in the morning. The bus journey up to Manali was awesome. It was the first and finest of its kind. I never see such magical view in my life. We passed through fruit market where lots of apples were being sold. We also passing through apple plantation, steady rocky mountains stood before my eyes, covered mostly by the fogs. It was cold at the foothill, some 15 degree or something. The road was very tiny- just fit for one vehicle and it was zigzagging all the way. The line of mountain view was beautified by its water fall.

We arrived at the top at around 11.30 am, Central Manali. The reception was crazy and heart pounding. We were awaited by group of opportunist and when they seen us arriving, they were chasing us and jumping and shouting and hitting hard on our bus. At first glance, it looks like a riot or something. I wasn’t afraid but I knew some people in the bus were freaking out. It remind me of Beatles’s riot situation in Japan or the one that happen with Guns n’ Roses during tour. Anyway, it was a false alarm. They were just sticking their ads on our bus and were chasing us to sell us all sort of services. It was still raining and the weather was increasingly cold and chill. The wind didn’t help much either, contribute even more the cold climate. We were breathing fog and bathing in rain water. We took a van to Vaishit village, somewhere around old Manali. With Lonely planet, the bible for travelers, we checked in Both guest house immediately. The guest house was run by an old Tibetan man. What visible from our roof top was the fast flowing Manali river, mountain side, rocky hills and snows covering the peak of every mountains.

If in any part of India, the local will invite you with a cup or glass of Masala tea, then the tradition in Manali is also the same, but the only different was they welcome you with their local specialties; the hash. Manali is one of the largest state in India that produce a quality hash. This probably because of its natural endowment and relatively cold climate.

Still exhausting from the long bus ride from Delhi, we decided to take a rest at Blue heaven café, located alongside the small Vaishit road leading up to the hot spring. We ordered a Israeli foods, Chinese foods and Lassi. The owner offered us a joint, the standard warm welcoming from the Manalian. It was my first drug experience after the Bhang story in Udaipur. It was real good. In Vaishit, Manali, we found a Shisha look alike café and we chilled there with its Nepalese owner and all his band of Nepalese band of young bunch. It was a nice place and we hung out there very often till the last day in Manali. It has a pool table, large room furnished with flat screen TV, layback interior, mattress on the floor and most importantly- we can play our own choice of music. I treated myself a very exquisite dinner, with my own CD played on the air- Buena Vista Social Club. I ordered a Chicken sizzler chips and 2 glass of black tea. After the dinner, the boss and the cook joint us at our dining table, and they started to roll a joint, a fat one, and we started to smoke away the best thing on earth. After dinner, we also shooting pools at Basho for a few game.

Second day also raining but not heavy. It was very down and depressed kind of weather. People don’t talk to people that much. We were all busying shivering and breathing in and out the cold air and gathering fog. We went to Basho for our breakfast. The side that we didn’t went yesterday night was actually a wide balcony, offering us one of the most beautiful landscape towards the peak of mountains, covered with snows and shaded by the fog, wet by the rainy water. Also visible in our eyes was the Manali river, flowing healthily and splashing hard on the rocks. I ordered a black tea and a butter toast omelets. The weather didn’t improve much. In facts it got worse, getting even much colder. So I went to the Hot Spring to bath the hot water. The shower looks like a small pool with a boiling hot water. It looks like one of the emperor’s wife garden in the ancient kingdom of China we used to watch on TV. Lots of locals especially kids were bathing in the hot spring. The moment I dip myself onto the water, I felt a severe burn on my flesh and skin. It was really hot. But after a while, the cold temperature adjusted my hotness of the spring.

We went to Old Manali where most of the happening places were located there. It was a Manalsu café. I can’t believe my eyes and ear for, for a while I thought I was In Europe. The café was very English-ish. The pub were playing a radio station from America (satelite radio). Few tables was occupied, by mostly foreigners and their local friends. The café was fully cover with glass. This café was built above the Manali river and hence the view surrounding us was the life of Manali river. The radio station was playing song from John Mayer and Sinead O’ Connor before I requested to play my own CD, comprising the compilation of Billy Joel’s Piano man, Pink Floyd’s money, CCR’s Bad moon rising, Train’s Drop of Jupiter, Sting’s message in the bottle and lot more. Then I played on REM greatest hits, songs like Imitation of life, Everybody hurts, Man on the moon, Happy shiny people and so on. Other guest were whistling and singing around and the boss was happy with my CD.

My all time top 5 REM song:

1. Man on the moon
2. Electrolite
3. Everybody hurts
4. The great beyond
5. At the end of the world

We ordered Chicken fried rice, Garlic cheese Naan, cold beers and we hung out for about 4 hours. We couldn’t go anywhere because the rain was again, cat and dog. It was a weather that one will prefer to stay put and enjoying good music and good smoking. In the evening we did nothing much but loafing at Basho, smoking joint, drinking, eating chips and shooting lot of pools. The highlight of that night was when I narrowly and competitively beat the local champion on the table. It was awesome.

Last day at Manali was full of sunshine. It is like a festival and celebration for the people for to see a sunshine is almost impossible in Manali. We hung out at Basho for breakfast and smoke our last joint before we bade farewell to Manali and hello to McLeod Ganj.

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Manali MountainView

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View of Manali River, That Rainy Day

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India: An Experimental backpacking to the North & Goa

Part 7

My friend, Benny & Martin @ The Tai Mahal


The time from Jaisalmer to Delhi by train took us 19 hours. Andrew and Kee took 2nd class AC, I opted the cheapest solution, the sleeper lower class. In the train, I met two traveler, who travel the same class and same compartment with me. French guy name Chris and Adam from Wales. We did some ice breaking. Chris was more quiet and cooler type while Adam and I had more things to crap about. Soon after the train took off, I took a short nap that seems like forever. But it was not forever, I awaken 2 hours after that, to find my view from the inside of the train, setting on the empty desert, villages and sometime small town. The class that we were in was the lowest. That means open door, crappy window, little smelly and unorganized, and yes, overcrowded especially where we reached at Jodhpur train station. The majestic view while on the route to Delhi, before the night set in, was simply marvelous. Kids were running around, amaze by the presence of us aliens, waving in complete happiness and curiosity at us foreigners, cows and other animals were wandering around and all in all it was a very simple setting of a small village in the desert, under the clear dusty sky and for a moment like that, everything in my surrounding were peaceful.

On this route, I started out my new book, given to me by Martin & Ina in Udaipur, Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. This is a book that narrated by a guy in his thirty something. In this book, he chronicle all his bittersweet past of his relationships and his obsession with records and music scene. His recent break up with his girlfriend prompted him to reanalyzed all his past relationship, the whats that had went wrong and while he was narrating about his seems-meaningless--kind-of-life, he also narrated about his fascinating thought about relationship and records. One of the best thing in this book was the “All time top 5 things list”.

In many ways, HIGH FIDELITY is a "guy" romantic comedy, a book about relationships after the age of 30, a book about societal expectations for men, a book about "recovery" from damaging relationships. Along the way it gives great insight into how guys think, male paranoia ("Is he better than me? [i.e. Bigger?]"), male insecurity and fear and sadness. Also the tendency of men to be a little narrow-minded (overly focused [ie, the top 5 lists]) at times, even misanthropic. I love this book because I really related to the main character; we live in a materialistic age where at a certain point you start to feel foolish if you haven't established a "career." Rob's (the main character) a passionate guy, passionate about music -- not a dullard, and yet he remains the way he always was, without much career ambition, content to indulge his passions. I love this book because I can relate to the Rob’s characters especially at the moment of writing this journal.

Rob kind of feel guilty because he was the kind of chap that is demanded by the society, like establishing career of sort and that was exactly the state I am in now. Also because of his obsession on music and how he often judge people by the music collection he had, and honestly that was what I do most of time, on people. What kind of people he or she is if he or she is a avid listener of Jazz or Blues. What if he or she listen to Beethoven or Mozart or phantom of the opera. He is cool if he talks about cultural revolution in the 60s or Jimi Hendrix or if he thought Claptop is God. Sometime I categorize people as boring people if they are not fond with music for living life without music is like a living life without life.

Though our conscious mind are clear but sometime, we still (Rob and I) still feel inferior in comparison to people around us. In my case is to see my friends going so far in their career, measuring their achievement by what’s new materials that brought and the place they visited and so forth. I was talking to my friend yesterday and I was kind of expressing my thought of finding the right girl. For me, Physical look is always not the most important criteria. I think I put more importance in the type of music they listen and type of book they read or movies they watch or social-political issues they know and talk about rather than the mere look. I value much more on their character, attitude, personality and charisma. How they present themselves or behave in this sick society of ours. I love someone that can share common interest or subject with me hence she can be not only my partner but my best friend. Yes, you may say this is childish or selfish but that was me, even now at the age of 25. Seems like a joke but hey, that’s me. And because I see that in Rob and therefore I was so thankful to Nick that in all his great mind he somehow knew a character that are somewhat like me- therefore I am not abnormal.

I really love this book, I do. If you are not the reader, then you might want to check out the movie, which starring John Cusack and Jack Black. OK, now I am gonna feature my first all time top 5 list in this journal.

My all time top 5 books

1. Shantaram by Gregory Roberts
2. Conversations with God by Neale Walsch
3. Jim Morrison: Life, Death & Legend by Stephen Davis
4. Kane & Abel by Jeffrey Acrher
5. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

The train stop for a 15 minutes rest at one of the mid rail station. The sun was already unseen anywhere. Chris and I went down and feed ourselves with some local variety, taking a cigarette break and breathing the fresh air of Indian outskirt. When the train continue its journey, I was seating at the door, washing my eyes with the serenity of the greenery of farm field and life of the villagers. The train passed through lakes, empty fields, hills, desert and all the way until we it stopped again at Jodhpur train station. At the time of stopping I was still reading High fidelity and was listening to:

Song: Be here now, sound of love, beauty, see the sun by James Iha, Jump, Running with devil, Ain’t talkin’ about love, cradle will rock by Van Halen and Ray Charles’s Greatest Hits.

My all time top 5 singles:

1. Tiny Dancer by Elton John
2. Goodnight Saigon by Billy Joel
3. Ordinary world by Duran Duran
4. Why don’t you & I by Santana & Chad Kruger
5. Don’t go away mad by Motley Crue

My all time top 5 album:

1. The Ballads by R.E.O Speedwagon
2. Nevermind by Nirvana
3. Child of the light by Ernie Smith
4. Aquarius by Amir Yussof
5. Clapton Chronicles by Eric Clapton

So I put on greatest hits of The Beatles and closed my eyes for the night. The train stopped at Jaipur station at 5am and arrived at Delhi at 11:30. Andrew and Kee parted with me for our own destination. They went to Agra for the infamous Taj Mahal and I went on to meet Maneesh, my friend. I had been to the Taj Mahal somewhere during winter last year so it will be stupid to waste my budget for a second time, plus, Agra is not a fancy one will for more than one and if minus the Taj, no one will probably go there at all. Maneesh was a trainee in Malaysia some 4 years ago and we lived nearby then. Maneesh took me Connought place (CP), Zen restaurant, for a round of Foster beers and fried chilly potatoes. It was a classy Chinese restaurant. The beers on the hot shiny day was really great. Then we went to his house some 50 Km away, in Vasundhara, Ghazianbad. Maneesh’ s wife cooked us a very nice dinner with good appetite. Prior to that, we went to the temple of Lord Shiva. We did nothing much but catching up some old times stuff and moment that gone before our eyes. I met up with Andrew and we took a bus to Manali, which will take us 18 hours miserable ride up the mountain and hill side. Kee met up with a French girl in her early thirty something and they decided to go to Varanasi- the mother of all holy place, instead.

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India: An Experimental backpacking to the North & Goa

Part 6

A View from my guest house in Jaisalmer

09. 09. 2005, Jaisalmer day 1.

Nothing much has been done during day one. My brother and I went to Gadi Sagar. It is a tank, south of the city walls, once held the town water supply, and befitting its importance in providing precious water to the inhabitants of this arid city, it is surrounded by small temples and shrines. The beautiful yellow sandstone gateway arching across the road down to the tank is the Tilon-ki-Pol, and is said to have been built by a famous prostitute, Tilon . When she offered to pay to have this gateway constructed, the Maharaja refused permission under it to go down to the tank and he felt that this would be beneath his dignity. While he was away, she built the gate , adding a Krishna temple on top so that king could not tear it down. After Gadi Sagar, we took a long walk to Jaisalmer fort. One thing funny about India or while traveling was you kept meeting the same people you met along the way, people that you thought you will never meet again- and suddenly, boom, out of the blues, you bum into him or her. Sometime India seems to be so small for you keep bumming into people. While I was at the foothill of Jaisalmer fort, wandering around the bazaar, I bum into the handsome looking Austrian guy, Hannes, my neighbor in Udaipur. That night, we had a dinner at our guest house and I started reading Kassim Ahmad’s Hikayat Hang Tuah.

10.09.2005, Jaisalmer day 2.

Day 2 in Jaisalmer is the most highlighted event in Jaisalmer for we were about to do the thing we never do in our life, which is riding on the camel, deep into the desert, and spent a night there. We woke up 6.30 in the morning. The morning was glory as most of the inhabitant in the villages were already awaken. Even the boars, the cows and the goats were starting to get busy with their own business, whatever that may be. We were group of 7 people. The other 4 was a French couple and Juergen and Hannah, from Germany. While on the way to the starting point of the desert, the jeep took us to two of the famous monument. It was there that I got to know Juergen and Hannah better. My brother though that Hannah look like Wynona Ryder.

Outside one of the monument, there was a small hut, with an old man boiling up a tea. We just sat there enjoying our morning tea. I lighted up two bidi, with the play of matches, one for me and one I offered to Juergen. Bidi my friend, is a thin, often flavored, Indian cigarette made of tobacco wrapped in a tendu or temburini leaf and secured with colored thread at one end. They are smaller than regular cigarettes, but more potent. Because they do not have a filter and are wrapped in nonporous leaves, a smoker needs to inhale more often and more deeply to keep them lit. One bidi produces three times more carbon monoxide and nicotine, and five times more tar than a regular cigarette. It is a road to hell as we know it and your lungs is on the frying pan before you realize it.

We reached the surface of the desert at around 8.55 am and the weather was still chilling. Few camel man and theirs camels were already waiting for us to embark a remarkable journey to the deep sahara. I was being given a young and inexperience camel. How I do I tell? The camel was constantly protesting and just when he was at the blink of going berserk, the chief camel man, Gomu, decided to change the young camel with his own personal camel, name Tiger. So, Gomu and his entire team of camel man, namely, Bazu, prem, fakir and Amir, lead our expedition. The sun gradually showing up in the sky, hitting the sky so gloriously, and blazing down on our flesh and skin. It was that kind of typical sunshine or sun blaze in the middle of the desert. After about 4 hours into the desert, we finally saw a big tree, surrounded by an empty land of desert. We decided to take a rest there and the band of camel man, which is also our friend, prepared us a lunch. It was not a fancy lunch. In fact, it was only a meal with too much simplicity in it. They cooked us Bajee, Chapatti and maggi noodle. It was simple yet delicious. I think what make it so delicious was the atmosphere. I mean it was a desert and we were eating a freshly cook food. What else could we ask? It is almost the same with having grill marinated shark or king fishes in Goa. Juergen, Hannah and I took a walk around the huge and hot and bother desert, picking up some very nice desert stone. In the middle of that desert, one guy approached us to sell us cold soft drinks and cold beers. Ha, that was really funny. Though I didn’t buy any beer, only soft drink, the seller was kind enough to lent me his small bike to me, to ride around the desert. Wow, I was wandering, yes, some might had ride a camel in the desert, but what about Motor bike in the desert?

It was a almost 3 hours rest. The camels were hanging around while most of us either talking, taking a short nap or doing our own thing. Me, I was hanging around with my brother’s MP3 player, blasting some classic Malay songs namely Kain cinta putih, Dalam Gerimis and Masih Aku Terasa. The experience of riding into the desert is like straight out of Arabian night fable. The desert citadel is truly a golden fantasy in Thar Desert.
The best thing about the camel ride was when we reached the sand dunes. It has a truly glorious stretch of sweeping sand dunes. We were all amazed by the sand dunes. It seems like all the sweat and burn out finally paid off. We were completely forgotten about all the hardship through the desert, and the ache in between our thigh, thanks to the camels.

Juergen and I quickly befriended with the desert and the sand dunes. We jumped from high above and blanketing ourselves with the sands. It was really nice. After that, I joint my brother to witness the sunset. It was beautiful. When the darkness ushered in and the stars starting to appear on sight, the camel man started to cook us dinner. After dinner, we adjourned to some get-together moment, where Gomu and his band of camel man, gathered around and singing us some folk and desert songs. The wind of desert stared to blow lazily but striking softly onto our skin into our bones, making us chill and shivering as the time moves on to the early morning. With a beautiful place like that, I put on Lionel Ritchie’s love songs- and begun to cherish the time spent with Hannah.

And that’s all- I fall asleep soon after. The magical night of the desert happen to me when I woke up in the middle of the night. We were just sleeping like that, without any tent (weather was clear). So when I open my eyes, looking up the open sky, I couldn’t believe myself what I seen and what I felt. For a brief moment, I thought I was floating in a paradise, and the gravity were pushing me not to its direction but nearer and closer to the swimming pool of bright and shiny starts. That was what I felt. It was the most beautiful view on the midnight sky I ever see in my life, the desert night. I didn’t close my eyes for a long while, enjoying the view and occasional shooting stars.

After breakfast, and after shitting behind some bush, we left the sand dunes, around 8.30 in the morning. This time I didn’t get to ride Tiger but were given Rocket instead. Rocket was ride by one of the French, who left us just before the night roll its curtain in night before.

Just about 2 hours before we reached the surface of the desert again, we separated with Juergen and Hannah. They did longer days for the camel safari while we did only one and the half day. Juergen and Hannah were great and interesting people. Juergen especially, was very talkative and funny too.

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With the camel I was riding, Tiger.

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Jaisalmer: When we reached the Sand Dunes!

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The Colorful people of the Colorful nation

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Jodhpur: Larger view on the Blue City

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India: An Experimental backpacking to the North & Goa

Part 5
Jodhpur: Meherangarh fort


Jodhpur stand at the edge of the Thar desert and was citadel of the ancient Marwar kingdom. This bustling desert city is the second largest city in Rajasthan after Jaipur and has landscape dominated by the massive Meherangarh Fort topping a sheer rocky ridge.
The old city is fenced by 10 km long wall with eight Gates leading out of it. The new city is outside the walled city. We left Udaipur that night, the post bhang lassi night and arrived at Jodhpur, in the dead of the morning, somewhere around 4.30 am. We took a auto rickshaw to Sardar market. The market was completely empty and was without a slight of human being, except for band of pariah dogs, roaming around the market, marking and preserving their territory. The weather was cold and chilly. The dark sky was in the midst of transition to bright sky. There was an empty cart somewhere nearby the clock tower. I was unrest and I laid flatly, my nose facing up the sky and without I realize it, I fall into darkness and my soul left me to his better place until I heard someone were talking. We were approached by a nicely dressed gentleman who wanted to show us his family guest house. The guest house was Gopal guest house. After we clean ourselves and, we went to the rooftop for a round of breakfast. The sun was still shy away from the face of the earth, hidden behind the thick clouds. It was simply amazing/beautiful. There it was, the majestic view of the blue city. There I stood tall and proud and lay my eyes on the blessed blue city. According to the local, The Brahmin used to paint their roof blue but nowadays, every one also follow the tradition irregardless of caste. I ordered a noodle onions, strawberry milk and half fried eggs. We were served by a very cute little girl, daughter of the guest house owner, Shalu. Her younger and playful brother name was Sunir.

The first place we went was Jaswant Thada, the graceful marble cenotaph of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. This main memorial has been built like a temple with intricately carved marble stone that is sculpted by the genius artesian. After hanging around and did nothing but enjoying the atmosphere and surrounding from the top of the square, we left the structure and walk alongside the rocky uphill towards the majestic Mehrangarh fort. The infamous fort was built by titans and colored by the morning sun.

This fort is one of the largest fort in India. This magnificent fort is located at the centre of the city spreading over 5 kilometres atop a 125-metre high hill. Its walls, which are up to 36 metres high and 21 metres wide, protect some of the most beautiful and historic palaces in Rajasthan. To commemorate historic victories three gates are found in the fort. Within the fort, several brilliantly crafted and decorated palaces are found. After the fort, we went downhill through the villages of blue rooftops houses until we found a roof top restaurant. Outside the guest house, there was this twenty something dude were showing us his collection of foreign currency. He was asking about Malaysian notes. We didn’t have anything but a RM 10 note. The trick was, we gave him the note and he invited us to the same amount of RM 10 worth of meals. Well, the funny thing was, the trick work on so many people. We met this bearded, completely Rastafarian guy, name Amir, from Israel. Then I went on to ordered Rajasthani thali and glass of banana lassi after few pages of Shantaram. Then an English traveler were tricked to the rooftop as well. His name was Gavin and his all time number one favorite British band was Queen.

We left soon after and in the evening, we were wandering in the bustling bazaar. We arrived at the guest house around 6pm. I used that time to read up the rest of Shantaram and we had a our dinner at the rooftop before entrained to Jalsalmer that night itself.

The journey to Jalsalmer by train took us about 7 hours. We arrived at Jalsalmer or the golden city at 5.30 in the morning. We took the sleeper class. The ride was smooth and nap was good until we woke up slightly before we arrive. Sands were everywhere- because the journey to Jalsalmer did pass through the desert.

We took a jeep from railway station to Hotel Renuka. After checking in, we went straight to the rooftop restaurant where we met two kitchen helper from Kashmir, Suvinder and Darson. This rooftop offer us one of the most fantastic view towards Jaisalmer fort, one of the world’s finest and greatest fort. This for is now under UNESCO list of endangered fort and it’s under severe protection and perseverance. This fort otherwise known as SONAR QUILA or the Golden fort, rising from the sand , the mega structure merges with the golden hues of the desert ambience and the setting suns in its most colorful shades gives it a fairy tale look. The name Jaisalmer induces a dramatic picture of utter magic and brilliance of the desert. The hostile terrain not with standing the warmth and colour of people is simply over whelming.

We were busying chatting with Darson and Suvinder. It was raining that morning and the weather was kind of chill. Darson and Suvinder was obviously a funnyman. They served us two glasses of hot masala chai.

India: An Experimental backpacking to the North & Goa

Part 4



That morning after, I met up with Martin and Ina at Dream heaven for breakfast which at that time might be a last breakfast because they were planning to leave for Jodhpur and my brother, Kee and I were suppose to depart for Jaipur. We ordered a lot and that morning seems like a breakfast spree for us. Though it was a huge bill and I was on a budget trip, I insisted to pay for the bill. Ina left us for Monu’s painting session while Martin went to the loo. The most wonderful thing happen when I was alone and when Martin was in the loo.
There she came, one of the beautiful girl I saw twice, yesterday, one at the bazaar and the other time was during dinner time. But this time it was only the blonde, the brunette was nowhere to be seen. It was the third time I saw them and yet I don’t know them. Somewhere inside me, I knew that they were interesting people and for that reason alone, I felt compelled to approach and talk to her. I decided to hold myself together and walk to her place. It was just opposite our table but somehow the funny thing was, it seems long especially the blonde girl was looking at me coming at her. My mind must had been wandering what the hell went through her mind while I was walking towards her? Anyway, I introduced myself and we began breaking the ice. The blonde girl’s name was Maria, and she’s from Germany. A very interesting person. At only 21, she had been to so many places. She had been to Malaysia and she fall in love with Pehentian Island once. She had also been working for one year and traveling in Australia. While I was interestingly in conversation with her, her friend came, yes, the brunette, my definition of prettiness and gorgeous. She was busying snapping off the remaining of her roll. Her name is Kathrin and she is also from Germany. They are heading to Varanasi for their next destination. I was a little bit down. I mean I just met them and we are going separate ways that days itself. I guess that’s the fact. Part and parcel of traveling. You will meet a lot of interesting people while traveling.
There seems to some kind of unexplained bonding that will bring and keep us together. Even though the time spent together was brief, or the fact that we just met, but somehow it felt like we had known for quite sometime. I am not only saying it just because I met two beautiful girls, it happen to all the travelers I met, boys or girls, any country. The bonding was like we are all belong to a same nation. Like United States of Travelers, India branch. It is not a bad thing though, in fact, it is one of the good thing. Through this, you get to learn a lot through the wisdom and life experience of these people. Most of the things were indeed very interesting.

In the evening, Martin, Ina and I were dining at my guest house’s rooftop. We been talking about Bhang lassi for quite sometime and Ina and I decided to take before we left for our respective destination. Bhang Lassi is a special lassi that contains bhang, a liquid derivative of cannabis, which has effects similar to other eaten forms of marijuana. This form of drink is legal in many part of India especially in the state of Rajasthan. Hannes the Austrian guy had recommended that the best bhang we can get is the one from our own guest house. So I took Martin and Ina to my guest house that night, for one purpose and one purpose only, bhang lassi. I asked the runner to prepare me two glasses of Bhang. One was suppose to be kind of surprise gift for my brother. But not surprisingly he rejected it, despite the fact that he was smoking with us the night before. So, before the sun set, I took a one full glass, straight down to my stomach.
In the beginning, I didn’t feel much thing. And when Ina and Martin arrived, I ordered another one, for Ina. I was being warned by the runner that the maximum one can consume is one glass because the amount of bhang he mix was grave enough the send you to bed right away, when the effect take place. So when Ina decided to drink only half a glass- I decided not to waste such thing away and I acted out of my mind and drank away the rest of the bhang. Gradually, I begin to feel that I was being lighter, and my view became blur, and grayish, shady and my mind begin to wander faraway. Dizziness strike and at the same time I become more sleepy. The weather was getting completely dark. I remembered I was making joke with Ina and we were imitating one of the advertisement where it feature a hippo and a dog, dancing to the tune of Beach Boys’ s “The lion sleep tonight” .
And just like that, all hell break loose, hell freeze over- all of the sudden, I became hallucinated. My mind begin to see various images of animals, the characters from the movie, Madagascar. And it all jumble up with super sonic sound and techno-color shapes of geometry, in various color. And it was all moving in a complete animation. From hallucination, I became depressed and developed great sense of paranoia. At that time, I still denied my cosmic trip to the cosmic universe. I tried to convince myself that it was all just a gimmick. But the gimmick was defeated by the realism of my situation. Ina was freaking out and Martin tried hard to calm me down. My body was shivering a lot and I felt a terrible coldness. The supersonic sound was still amplifying in my head, and so are the images kept messing up with my mind. My knee and my arms at time felt like being nil by a hammer and the sound of hammering was so supersonic that I became even more paranoia. Everything scared me including the appearance of Martin. I was jive talking in both English and Hokkien. The consciousness of my mind was splitted by the shady reality and my hallucination. Last but not least, I became afraid and depressed. I started to talk nonsense and losing control of my balance. I felt like an 80 years sick old man because I couldn’t walk by myself unless I was being supported. The whole craziness was begin to contradict myself, my paranoia and my depression. My consciousness was asking me to leave for Jaipur for I had purchase the ticket and the clock was ticking, but my unconscious mind was convincing me that something bad will happen if I ever walk out of that place. If that is not all, my hearing was being block by invisible clouds. I could heard nothing but myself and everything uttered by me was being amplified and echoed. There seems to be disconnection between my senses and my mind. And when the situation became so helpless, Martin slowly took me down to the owner. My brother and his friend, Kee, was there to witness this embarrassing moment of mine. The runner was feeding me lump of butter so to lesser the effect that had been sinking in. The pain was grave. I felt like a sound of thunder was striking my hearing and the running train was hitting through my head, weakening every cells and blinding every molecules in my body. My brother and Kee decided to stay for another day, at least until I regain my strength and composure. On the bed, my state of consciousness was deteriorating. Images kept wandering inside my mind. My feeling changes constantly, from being scare to being happy to being over concern and so on. Even when I was throwing out, it was not just throwing out. The images of my hallucination hallucinate me to puke. It was a goat crawling out through my throat, forcing my throat to open wide- so I could throw everything out on the floor. And in between that late evening until early morning, I kept waking up and dozing off…I was completely in the state of delirium and was completely intoxicated. If only I follow the advice, maybe thing might be different. If only I didn’t overdose.
And when I woke up in the morning, Martin and Ina was already gone to Jaipur. The feeling was indescribable. It is like I was just being born anew again. My eyes still unable to absorb the amount of morning light but I was 70% sober. I felt like a newborn baby. All around me became so new and so serene. It is like the first time I see the world, after a 30 years being locked underground. My skin was so fragile and so tender. This was the only consolation and the best thing ever happen out of the bhang consumption. I wouldn’t say it paid off but somehow I felt like I had been walking for a hundred miles in a desert and then when I reach the sand dunes I was being awarded by tons of cold beer or like I was fasting for 100 days and at the end of 100 days I get to make love with Heidi Klum. The utility was at its height.

Somewhere deep inside I felt some kind of guilt that the farewell I gave to Martin & Ina was my state of delirium and intoxication and full night of jive talking.

They said once bitten twice shy. If you ask me would I do it again, I mean the bhang lassi, I wouldn’t say no, but given the right time and the right place and the right people, I might have do it again but only this time with right amount of shot.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

India: An Experimental backpacking to the North & Goa

Part 3


(Song: Everyone by Van Morrison and followed by Wallflower girl by Better than Ezra )-at the time of writing this script

Lake Palace (City palace), when there was a water and shining sun

Lake Palace's view, in the evening

Udaipur is famous around the world as the City Of Lakes or Venice of East. Udaipur is located in the mountains of Aravali range. It is located in the southern part of Rajasthan near the Gujarat border. From Ahmedebad, we took a self proclaim deluxe bus and it took us about 6 hours ride. It was not a fancy ride. It was hot and humid, the road there almost hell and dusty. Though both of my legs were up on the seat in front of me and the window were widely open, I was sweating, my buttock were itching and my back bone were cracking. It all paid well when we arrived at Udaipur’s main town.
Jana, our friend from Germany was already in Udaipur and we took the three wheeler auto rickshaw to Udaipur new town where the city palace is. We checked in the same guest house with Jana, Nayee Haveli. The rooftop of our guest house were unbelievable. It was a brilliant view to the infamous big lake and some authentic building. The lake was dry for the past few years and we were lucky because it was raining heavily few days before our arrival.
So the lake was again re-appear, this time in its own magical way. Lot of local people were celebrating. Some were swimming and some were merely splashing water, regardless of old or young, man or women. The first thing I did was resting my ass on the chair, on the rooftop, setting my eyes on the lake- and also, was to smoke a weed. The feeling was simply marvelous. It is like stranded in an island without a water for 2 days and out of the blue you found a case of beer flowing towards your direction. At the guest house, I met Hannes from Austria, Lisa from Spain, Sunny, a seasonal traveler French lady and other Spanish guys. She later rolled a big fat joint and together she and I smoking the moment away. Immediately after that, I ordered a lassi to soothe my throat and my stomach.

(Song: Friday I‘m in love by The Cure)

In the evening, Carol, Gemma, Jana and I, the only guy, went to a rooftop restaurant for a so called reunion (with Jana) dinner. It was a great dinner. We had the rooftop all to our self. While waiting for the foods to be served, I laid my back flatly on the table, on the corner of the rooftop, just looking up the open sky and space. It was really beautiful and even more magical to see how the stars were dancing, while the wind were blowing, whispering its breath soundly onto my skin and at that particular moment- I knew one thing for sure, that the feeling inside me couldn’t be better.

Our table were set before the magnificent view towards the shiny and legendary lake and its gem, the city palace. It was awesome to see the city palace fully lighted up. It was an unforgetful night with the girls, not because I was with three girls but because I realized I was having dinner at the rooftop of one of the nicest restaurant in Udaipur, staring at the magically floating palace on the legendary Lake Piccola.

(Song: On a high by Duncan Sheik)

“Here’s another thought that kept roaming in my mind from the book Shantaram that night before I put myself to rest, eagerly to experience my maiden morning and sunset in Udaipur. “At first when we truly love someone, our greatest fear is that the loved one will stop loving us. What we should fear and dread, of course, is that we won’t stop loving them even after they’re dead and gone. For I still love you with the whole of my heart, my friend. I still love you, and sometime my friend the love that I have and can’t give it to you, crushes the breath from my chest. Sometime even until now my heart is drowning in sorrow that has no star without you, and no laughter and no sleep”.

I still remember when I reach this part where Lin express this piece of his heartache for his friend, who passed away in a accident, I almost cry. Though my eyes didn’t drop a tears, but my heart was melted away. I was crying inside as if the story was real and connected to me or my pass life. I felt like that at that time because my heart was very sentimental. Some unknown formation of chemicals in my body was developed a feeling that was so surreal that it seems I was a part of Shantaram.

(Song: Daniel by Elton John)


(Song: Piece of my heart by Janis Joplin)

My first morning in Udaipur. I woke up at around 7am. The view of the city was already clear but it was still filled with natural sound and silences of nature. Jana was still sleeping and I didn‘t want to wake her up (and is the other girls). So I ordered plain omelets and cheese toast for breakfast, put on greatest hits of Janis Joplin and started to sit down to ponder about the journey thus far. Jana joined me soon after.
After breakfast, Carol, Gemma and I went to the infamous city palace in Lake Piccola. City Palace towers over the Pichola Lake. Maharana Uday Singh initiated in the construction of the palace but succeeding Maharanas added several palaces and structures to the complex retained a surprising uniformity to the design. The entry to the Palace is from the Hati Pol, the Elephant gate. The Bari Pol or the Big gate brings you to the Tripolia, the Triple gate. The highlight of City Palace is when we reached the Suraj Gokhada or the balcony of the sun is where the Maharana would grant public audiences mainly to boost the morale of the people in difficult times. The majestic view over the city and the entire lake were really something.

That day, we were suppose to meet up with Martin & Ina (both are from Germany), our fellow friend from Pune, who arrived at Udaipur the day before us. We met up with them at Lalghat guest house for lunch. The weather was extremely hot and burning. I ordered “Dum Aloo” and cheese chapati for lunch. Ina went for a drawing class with local art dealer and Martin, Jana and I went hanging around the beautiful place and village of Udaipur, separated by the lake.
While I was cruising the bazaar, I came across two girls. They were fascinated by a two elephants walking on the street and were snapping a few shots at them. They were good looking especially the one with the brunette hair. At one of the book store, I came across Nick Hornby’s book, one of Martin’ s favorite author and I told him about it. So, for the whole afternoon, Martin and I were just wandering around Udaipur while the girls were busy at their own stuff. Martin and I went to their guest house’s rooftop restaurant, Dream heaven rooftop restaurant. Below his guest house is a art and painting shop. The owner of this painting shop, Mr. Soni, was a very nice and friendly guy. He and his brother invited us for a cups of masala chai and we ended up with Hyena drawing on our skin.

Then, we went to Monu’s painting shop to meet with Ina. Monu is 21 years old and he work at the painting shop. We were seating at the shop, watching local people and other travelers walking pass us. With Monu, we were discussing and exchanging our different set of philosophical thinking. This Monu guy was unbelievably knowledgeable and he know what he was talking about. I felt guilty after that. I mean how could I undermine their knowledge just because they didn’t go to college? He was lamenting about a Dutch traveler he met once and this Dutch traveler were complaining about the pathetic state of our current world. Monu told him that it is time for him to do something, no matter how small they might be, to change the cause. That should has been done instead of lamenting about it. If you don’t ready to do or to offer anything- then we all deserve nothing to complain about anything. Until we are ready to commit, we don’t deserve to lament.

Martin, Ina and I were dining at Dream heaven. Prior to our dinner, we bade farewell to Jana, Gemma and Carol. They left us one day earlier to continue their chosen route. Martin and Ina brought me a gift, a Nick Hornby’s novel, entitle “High fidelity”. We always talking about time and again about the movie we both know and he really want me to read it because to him it was one of the most amazing book ever written.

It was good to ordered a few bottle of cold beers after a hot day and lot of walking and slacking. The restaurant at night had a very nice setting and decoration. They were playing some good music too- reggae music. All of us were ordering their special Thali. It was very special indeed. At the restaurant, while we were chatting about forgotten but interesting conversation, again, I saw the two beautiful girls I seen while cruising the bazaar that afternoon. They were with a guy, definitely an Asian. My brother and his friend, Kee, whom I suppose to travel with, arrived that day. We finally met up in Dream Heaven. Kee went back to the guest house and we went up to the rooftop’s rooftop to have a smoking session. We smoked about two joint and were enjoying yet again the beautiful lake palace. The night was silence but distance away, we could heard some festival were going on.

India: An Experimental backpacking to the North & Goa

Part 2

Hannah & I, on the way to Tona fort.

Train station at Lonavla, that day...

02. 09. 2005

Carolina (Colombian), Gamma (Basque county) and I left Lucky 7, my apartment to the train station at around 7.30 pm. I played Fatboy Slim’s “Don’t let the man” and Blink 182’s “All the small thing” to kick start what would the greatest traveling I ever had in my life. Ya Ting (Taiwan) and Martin (Germany) were there to bade us farewell and wishes us good luck and safe journey for our traveling.

Together with the girls, and my 12 kilo bag pack and sleeping bag, we took a auto rickshaw to Pune railway station. We entrained at Pune station at 8pm. The journey to Ahmedebad, place in the state of Gujarat took us about 12 hours and we arrived at Ahmedebad at around 9.30am.

The train to there was full as usual. While Carol was in another compartment, Gemma and I were in the same compartment. We took a sleeper class. I begin my train journey with the book I read at that time, Gregory Roberts’s “Shantaram”. Shantaram is a very special book brimming with an open honesty that takes you on the journey of the heart. In many ways it's a story of bare survival where the heart beat of India takes the author through the most dramatic events of India and the mind blowing, piece of intellectual philosophies of the author and his band of criminals and friends. So, after about 150 pages, I went to the door for a rest. I open the door and sat by the entrance, loosing up my legs out and feeling the splash of speeding air through my skin. I was enjoying the night scenario of the passing villages and its peaceful towns and thinking of the romantic night with Hannah, which at time, felt like yesterday. I took out my CD player, and put on Lionel Ritchie love songs namely “Stuck on you”, “ Easy”, “Hello” to resemble the night at my balcony. It was a beautiful night. It was indeed serendipity for me as we grew closer to each other. The melody of the song with the night surrounding brought me back to the time where I was fetching her back, riding the wind with Dawson’s super bike from Naughty Angel café, the night of Yerwada market where she was having the shock of her lifetime after being crazily surrounded by the local goons and how I was her hero and companion, getting her out of the madness, our time in Lonavla and Karla caves and the best moment of all, the romantic night at my balcony. I don’t usually include my personal story or mellow-ish of sort in my journal but this one I think should be exceptional because it ran in my mind when I was sitting on that train that night thinking and embracing the moment.

My all time top 5 babe I met in Pune/India

1. Kathrin (Germany)
2. Christine (Egypt)
3. Hannah (Germany)
4. Zoya (Canada)
5. Magda (Poland)

I couldn’t sleep that night. I can’t stop thinking about her, the moments with her and the many possibilities if she haven’t left India. I wasn’t complaining. I was glad to even know her even though it was a short moment. At the height of that night I was smiling and begin to shift my mind to other endless thought like what would happen to me after all nice and beautiful things come to an end and empty contemplation like the beauty and silence of the night. At around 2am, I decided to rest myself and close my eyes for the first time since I left Pune few hours ago.

I woke up 4 hours later and the sun were starting to shine the day and the dark sky gradually gone. Some local passengers started to brush their teeth and other morning cleaning by the sink. I lighted up my first morning cigarette by the door, where I was cherishing good moment few hours ago. Soon after I was being approached by an ear plucker. It was nice to let your ears being clean once in a while.

At around 9.30am, we arrived at Ahmedebad train station and we met up with Carol. From there, the chaotic train station, we took an auto rickshaw to bus station to arrange a bus ticket to Udaipur. Before I move on, here I would like to quote something beautiful from the book Shantaram, which I read night before. In one of the chapter, Vikram said to Lin: “A man has to find a good women and when he finds her, he has to win her love. Then he has to win her respect. Then he has to cherish her trust. And then he has to like, going on doing that for as long as they live. Until they both die. That’s is all about. That’s the most important thing in the world. That’s what man is yaar (friend). A man is truly a man when he won the love of good women, earn her respect and keep her trust. Until you can do that, you’re not a man…”

India: An Experimental backpacking to the North & Goa

Part 1.

21 October 2005. 15:00, at home in Penang.

I haven’t start writing yet but I have a feeling that this piece of journal will be the longest to put into words. In a nutshell, this piece of journal will touch upon my backpacking trip to the north of India, short break in Pune and Goa from 2nd of September 2005 until I left Bombay airport on the 10th of October 2005. Like many travelers, I had my own share of my experimental experience, train of thought, beautiful places to remember, amazing landscape to cherish, unforgetful journey to ponder and the very special people I met along the way. And for this memorable trip of once in a lifetime opportunity, I will write so that in twenty years to come, I can flash back my memory lane to India. I don’t have anything but my short script I wrote on my diary every morning of my traveling, in different places. India is a amazing country and to travel India is like to travel in a sort of sub continental of the globe. Every state and part of town has its own uniqueness and each with its own diversity of cultural and historical differences. The people are indeed very friendly and at time very accommodative. Lots of things has been said about India and definitely lots of things has been stereotyped against India and its people but for a person like me who had been there, right down to the corner of their villages, traveling by feet, by its local buses, crappy lower class train- my confession is, not all of them is truth. In fact, this country is amazing and my overall traveling were blissful and experimental.

So, without further ado, I would like to continue to pursue my writing of this great experience.

In my dream, I always dreamt about myself leaving my beloved country, to walk and see the world. I always dream of going to places in Europe, Latin America but India has never been in the list. Sometime, the dream was so true that it was almost real and when I woke up to reality, I almost gasped in disbelieve it was just a dream. And of course when this occurred, my day begin with cry of disappointment.

Even sometime when I was in the middle of my beautiful traveling in India, I was afraid that when everything is over and when I open my eyes, I will be crying of my dejavu dream. But thanks God now that I am back in Malaysia and to see myself so two step behind the demand of our materialistic society, to see all my friends advance in their careers with their own set of success like their material possession, I sometime smile in happiness that this was all real, that I am the same old me, broke and nowhere, because this sign and state of life prove only one thing, that I had been there and done that, that I had finally and eventually left my comfort zone, broaden my horizon and live life to the fullest without regret. This sign has shown that the time has definitely moved since I left this country sometime last year and so is my life, but in a very and uncommon way. For that I will be forever be graceful.

So now I rewind to the day I begin my 40 days traveling and let the curtain of my writing roll up for the show is about to begin. It all began back in…