Monday, February 11, 2013

2 Week Update

It's been a little over 2 weeks now, and I thought I'd update everyone on where we've been and are, and what we're planning next.

After leaving Mumbai we went to Nasik via train.  We got a reserved seat in an A/C car, and it was pleasant enough, until we got off at the wrong station and had to pay a rickshaw driver the cost of one train ticket just to get to our hotel.  This seemed to set off a series of unfortunate events, as any number of things that could muck up a trip began to happen after this: rude hotel staff, crazy shower, no toilet paper, harassed by beggars and street sellers, stared at, laughed at, and had pictures taken by just about everyone else.

Then our train to Aurangabad was a 2nd class no A/C seat, and it was more than overcrowded.  We had to shift a family out of our two spots on the bench seat, and then stare at them for the next 5 hours (supposed to be 3 1/2) as 3-4 adults and 2 children sat on the opposite bench at any given time.  People were standing in the aisles, sitting in each other's laps, crawling over our legs, and we had to hold our luggage the entire time because there was no space in the racks above.

Aurangabad actually turned out somewhat nice, aside from the mothball and diesel smell of the room.  We took day trips in private cars to the caves at Ellora one day (side trip to Dautalabad and the mini Taj Mahal) and Ajanta another day.  These were the first, and so far only, instances of the awe-inspiring sights I had imagined India to be filled with.

From Aurangabad we came to Pune by bus (which left 45 minutes late and took 1 hour longer than the "maximum" time we were promised), also with no A/C.  In Pune we took the opportunity to get caught up on work, and stayed in our hotel room for nearly 3 days, only venturing out occasionally. There was nothing in Pune we wanted to see, and we had a lot of work to get caught up on. Plus the cheapest food options anywhere nearby were delivery food (our hotel was apparently in a posh neighborhood, with an internationally famous--and expensive--ashram nearby).  This suited us just fine.

Next we are going to Kolhapur by bus, then Panjim by bus, then a night in Madagao to catch the morning train to Hampi.

All in all, it has not been the most pleasant trip so far.  We still have hopes for things to look up, but we have no evidence thus far to support those hopes.  I'd also add that white female travelers should probably avoid this country, especially if they are alone.  It's not dangerous that we've seen, but it is frustrating and difficult and exasperating to always be stared at by everyone everywhere.  I mean people twisting completely around on motorbikes, chairs scooting in restaurants as people with stuffed faces follow your progress through the dining area--things like that.  Everywhere.  From what we've seen, older white people are mostly ignored, as are Asians.  Not sure how Africans fare, as we've only seen one or two.  I know they got similar treatment in Korea, but maybe it's different here since there are so many dark-skinned Indians.  We have friends who have traveled in India, and have gotten mixed responses: of the two white women we know who have gone, one loved her two week trip and the other had the same problems we're having over her longer trip; a woman of Asian descent loved it; most of the others were white men, most of whom loved it, but at least one of whom had a number of frustrations that have become familiar to us.  This isn't to say one shouldn't travel here, only be aware that who you are and what you look like makes a very big difference in how you will be responded to--and, obviously, how much you will enjoy your trip.

For example, I went out across town by myself once, and after dealing with two rickshaw drivers and four bus station personnel, had no real trouble with anyone.  People were polite or, when not, at least reasonable.  Nobody harassed me, nobody stared, nobody asked to take my picture.  This makes me suspect it is younger white women who face these problems.  It also allowed me to say to Nora, "It's not me, it's you."

No comments:

Post a Comment