A Travellerspoint blog

Our first impressions of India

sunny 45 °C

We woke up at 9.30 to find that Ryan had gone to university for a seminar so we got up, showered and set out to the metro station just down the road. On the way we found a McDonalds in the mall so popped in for a coke as we didn’t have anything else to drink! We took the metro to Chandi Chowk, famous for its markets and were really pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness of the metro! When we arrived and exited the station we had no idea which way to go. My first impression was that it looked like a bomb site, dust and rubble everywhere, people lying on the floor on blankets covered in dirt, old crumbling shops selling everything from old plastic wheels for sofas to used water bottles and little metal trollies selling refrigerated water (i.e. ‘tap’ water in glasses). It was a really hot, humid day and for an hour or so we wandered around the maze of alleyways first all selling electronic equipment (or piles of used wires, transistors and spare parts) then we passed into an area selling spices. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people, bikes and rickshaws haphazardly weaving around the streets and was getting too hot because, as of yet we hadn’t found anywhere selling a drink (or one that we could trust drinking!) Eventually we found a street stall and Sam bought a glass bottle of drink- as we started to wander off with it a kiddie chased after us and tugged in Sam’s arm “bottle” he said- we were supposed to drink the drink and leave the bottle! Ok so now a little re-hydrated we had a look around a little mosque that we came across near Old Delhi Train Station. We left our shoes with the man outside and had a wander around, as we walked around outside we saw the door to the bird hospital mentioned in Lonely Planet- we had just stumbled across it so after a quick photo of our first monkey sighting we checked out the hospital. The first floor had little cages with a couple of ill looking birds in each one from pigeons (of which there were a lot) to parakeets and also 5 eagles! The second floor was one cage of pigeons and a little chick on a tray of seed outside the cage which the “vet” picked up and dropped back onto the tray. As we were leaving the hospital, 2 people arrived with pigeons that were bleeding as if they’d been bitten by dogs. It’s a strange religion Jain Hinduism that believes in protecting all live but it’s nice I suppose. We got our shoes back and gave the guy 10Rs before heading back into the crazy back alleys. We bought some drinks from a street vendor-this time that we can take with us, and wandered around the area selling fabrics in the hope that I might find a traditional Indian outfit to wear- a shalwar Kameeze. No such luck on the clothing front, we stopped to look at one stall and the owner invited us in to sit in his shop whilst he produced endless packets of beautiful material but it turned out to be one piece of material that has to be taken to a tailor! No thanks. We saw a multi-coloured building over the rooves of the road that we were on so headed to find out what it was. It turned out to be a quiet, cool mosque where we sat for a while to cool off at the back of the room watching people that had come to worship. It was a serene place to contemplate how these people fit religion into their lives and how with the little money that they have they buy flowers and sweets as offerings to place on the deities. I was really hot by this point (as it was still over 40 degrees in the shade) and on the verge of feeling ill. We had a wander around the building then a man came over to us and started explaining to Sam a bit about the mosque and what people were doing. I went to stand outside as I felt quite ill then went to get Sam and we got some cold water (which I downed most of) then went in search of the State Emporium, a shopping complex with fixed prices and a food court. We walked in the direction of the complex (using Lonely Planet) but paused for a drink- a dangerous move. Within 20 seconds a man had appeared and pointed us in the ‘direction of the State emporium’ then proceeded to walk with us saying that he was walking this way anyway. Ok fair enough he wasn’t causing trouble but we guessed that he was up to no good. After warning us about pickpockets whilst conveniently slowing down to allow a group of youths to get very close to us whilst they looked at our pockets I was convinced that he was up to no good. He then led us to the “state emporium” as it said, painted above the door, a little shoddy shop down a back alley where the owner just happened to walk down the street and greet us at the door. We weren’t interested so said “no thanks” and walked back the way we thought the emporium was, on a parallel road. We located it after a short walk and had a look around a couple of the clothes shops. There was a nice fair trade shop with a really friendly shop keeper and a whole floor of shalwar kameezes- Amy heaven! I tried on lots of outfits and got a pair of white trousers quite dirty with my disgusting Delhi feet (from wearing flip-flops) so the lady gave me some carrier bags for my feet to try on the other pairs. I found a red/orange outfit that fitted well so bought it. It was lunch time so we ventured upstairs to the food court, after the waiter trying to persuade me that I wanted Lassi (sour milk) instead of a milkshake we had some rather spicy food which Sam ended up eating most of. It was 4pm by this point and we decided to soldier on and visit Jantar Manter as it was nearby and something to do. We bought tickets without any hassle then began to wander around reading the signs about the different astronomical instruments. A man approached us and asked if we would like a guide, we politely declined and carried on when another man came over and claimed that his father had given a tour to Steven Hawkings and that he worked for the government and didn’t want any money- ok fair enough. He told us a bit about each instrument and Sam listened whilst I took some photos of the orange clay monstrosities. At the end of his ‘tour’ he asked Sam for some money for his family, we guessed that this would happen but as he had explicitly said that he didn’t want money we didn’t give him any. He left in a huff and our nice peaceful walk was spoilt- ah well. We had a clamber on some of the instruments before a man came around shouting something in Hindi and everyone started to leave so we followed the trend. We arrived back at Ryan’s flat before he was back so his landlady let us in and 15 minutes later he got home from university and we went out for dinner. It was a little hotel with a rooftop restaurant filled with pale-faces but with really good food! Afterwards we had a walk around before catching the metro back, rolling out our bed and going to sleep whilst Ryan went out somewhere to do university work- he works all of the time- crazy architects!

Posted by SamAmy 05:30 Archived in India Comments (0)

Travel to India :)

sunny 45 °C

We got up at 9.30 and had breakfast before we all set off to the swimming baths that Ren liked on the other side of the city. It took almost an hour on the metro- the times between stops here are crazy- sometimes almost 5 minutes! Having arrived at the right stop we decided that we’d check out the Chinese gardens first as Ren has never been there either. We climbed the pagoda, visited the bonsai garden and photographed some lizards before a trip to the world’s largest turtle museum which had over 1000 turtles! There were snappers, long necked turtles, armored ones and pig-nosed ones which had little snouts. I felt really sorry for them all being in little tanks by themselves and some not able to get out of the water and others outside where there was one little tray of water for 6 turtles. I bought a bag of turtle food and fed the ones in the lake, spotted a monitor lizard that was HUGE and made a wish to the “wishing turtle” before we went in search of lunch. Neither Sam nor I were hungry so I got 2 dumplings and Sam had lemon chicken in the food-court before swimming. We all got changed and Ren rented our rubber rings and we sat onto them in the “Lazy river”, it was 2 seconds before Sam and Rubin were out of theirs, tipping them up and floating feet-up through the ring, spinning manically and pushing each other along. So much for a lazy river. After 30 minutes or so we moved into the big wave pool and practiced standing up on our rubber rings, swam underwater for a bit and waited for the waves to start. It was good fun when they eventually started, if you closed your eyes it was much more fun as the waves were unpredictable as they bounced off the walls. Back out of the pool and up the steps to the 17m high helter-skelter slide J good fun. We had about 5 go’s before a quick lounge in the lazy river and it was time to go. 2 hours had flown by! I was worried that we didn’t have enough time before our flight so I instigated quick walking back to Ren’s flat where we grabbed our bags and Ren walked with us to the MRT station where we said goodbye and hopped onto the metro to the airport. We were right on time for check in so brushed our teeth, took our first anti-malarial tablets and checked in. The nice Indian man on the desk printed our boarding cards then said “just wait a moment” and wandered off, he returned a minute later and said “I’ll give you extra leg-room”, ok we didn’t argue! We had dinner in a little Chinese restaurant before a quick look at the butterfly garden (which would be better during the day as we couldn’t see much with the green light). We got onto the aeroplane with little fuss and took our seats. I played games and watched a documentary about baby models before a little bit of sleep interspersed with baby crying.

We were both really tired when the plane landed in Delhi at 2.15am local time. We passed through security and waited over 45 minutes for our bags (welcome to India!). We ordered a taxi from the pre-pay taxi booth then tried to get an Indian SIM card which turned out to be considerably more trouble than in Singapore where they just photocopied my passport. After photocopying my passport, filling in a form, having my photo taken and clarifying that, yes, I did only want to put 200 rupees on it the man asked for my phone. He put in the new SIM card, almost broke the back of my phone putting it back n then chose the wrong time zone, couldn’t figure out how to use the touch-screen keypad when calling the top-up number so gave up and used his own phone. Transaction complete. We walked out of the airport and found the pre-paid taxis, handed over our receipt and they hunted for a driver that knew the way to Ryan’s place (which turned out to be none of them!) We were put into a taxi with a young driver and off we went. He was nice and pointed out thing on the way such as the new metro line under construction and the Prime Minister’s home. The driver knew where the metro stop near Ryan’s house was, or at least he found it after stopping for directions twice. Once there we phoned Ryan who chatted to the driver and Ryan stood on the main road to wave us down! (At 4am!) It worked and the taxi took us all around the corner to Ryan’s house. We silently walked up the stairs so as to not wake the others in his building and we had a very quick chat before laying out our mattress on the floor and going to sleep- so tired and my eyes are really dry from all of the air-conditioning.

Posted by SamAmy 04:35 Archived in India Comments (0)

Cycling in Singapore

sunny

We woke to another nice day in Singapore, had breakfast with Ren and set off to Pulau Ubin, a tropical island just off the coast of Singapore with only 100 inhabitants. Dramatically different to central Singapore! To get there we first had to catch a metro to the end of the line, then get a bus to the ferry terminal, before waiting for 12 people to gather to fill the small "bum-boat" that would take us across the narrow stretch of water to the island. We got off the rather dilapidated boat and were confronted by lots of different hire shops all with surprisingly nice bikes for hire - it seems like cycling is the thing to do here. We got 2 nice, hard-tail bikes for about 3 pounds and set off towards the east of the island. We cycled through dense rain forest interspersed with the occasional wooden house, completely different to the high rise blocks of Singapore city. We arrived at a nature walk with a tall viewing platform that gave us a nice view into the tops of the trees and we saw a few birds, then followed the boardwalk round and saw 2 big monitor lizards and some weird amphibians with only 2 legs. Back on our bikes and on to a perfectly flat lake, mirror like and reflecting the opposite banks. We carried on across the island to the Western side where we found some mountain bike tracks. We followed a blue route to "The German Girl Shrine", which was a yellow shack with incense sticks all around and a statue in the middle - not the prettiest shrine I have ever seen. We then decided to attempt a black diamond mountain bike route which was OK but Amy wasn't having the most fun in her flip flops, and I only had soft shoes on. We bailed out halfway through and got back onto a flat road where I got too confident and rode one handed, hit a stone and fell off, grazing my knee. We headed back towards the village with blood running down my leg and found a volunteer office where we borrowed the first aid kit and Amy cleaned my leg and let me pull the bits out trapped under the skin. We headed back to the ferry terminal, returning the bike en-route, waited for 12 people to gather and then made the trip back across the water, this time standing on the back deck to watch the boats go past. We caught the bus and then the metro back to Ren's where we found a new CS'er and Ren standing outside while Ren's housemate cleaned the floor. We chatted with Reuben and Ren for a bit before going shopping for stuff for tea and a bit of alcohol before Ren cooked tea. We started playing drinking games after we'd eaten and it moved onto "never have I ever". It turned out this was Ren's way of letting us know he was gay and this instigated a long discussion between Reuben and him about being in the closet.Eventually (at 3am) we got to bed.

Posted by SamAmy 03:55 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Australia to Singapore

Woke at 8.15am ready to take Reece to Cairns Cheapest Cars. We picked up a guy who was sat in the Holiday Park car park who wanted a lift to the road we were going to and when we arrived it just so happened that he had taken his car for a service to the same place! The boss wasn’t coming in until 10.30 now so we said we’d come back then. 10.30 arrived and the guy asked how much we wanted for him, after our previous attempts at saying ~$500 when people said no chance and walked away, Sam said, a couple of hundred? The boss seemed happy with the car and his co-worker took it for a test drive while the boss worked out how to pay us as it was Saturday and his secretary had taken the cheque book home. The man seemed happy with the test drive despite a man yesterday not wanting to buy it as 3rd gear makes a crunching noise! The boss paid us $200 cash and we forced him to give us a receipt before taking a last minute photo of him and walking back along the boardwalk in the rain. We were soaked by the time we got back so had showers and lounged for the afternoon, packed our stuff and got an early night for the long day tomorrow.

Up at 7.45, checked emails, put our camping stuff in the camp kitchen with a sign saying “free stuff”, got our bags and went to wait for the shuttle to the airport that we booked yesterday. It was due at 9 so when it hadn’t arrived by 9.15 I went to check that it was still coming. The lady on reception said that it was just running late and would be here in a few minutes but when it finally arrived 10 minutes later the driver said that he’d already done his 9am run but because they do everything by email and our holiday park had phoned, our booking had got lost somewhere. The lady was telling porkies! The guy had been trail biking the day before and was complaining of sore arms so we got chatting about cycling and Lance Armstrong- he’d read half of “About a bike” but not finished it- poor effort. After arriving early at the airport we checked in and got a coffee for our 3 hour wait. 3 hours went quicker than I’d expected then we were on the crappy Jetstar plane to Darwin, the highlight of which was a free sandwich which I ate a mouthful of as it was coleslaw and lettuce! After a brief stop in Darwin it was back onto the same plane and on to Singapore. Not much more eventful but much longer and we had a nice old lady sat in the aisle who we chatted to a bit about Australia before arriving in Changi airport. It was much larger than I expected and once we found our bags we got straight onto the MRT which was surprisingly easy to use to meet Ren (from couchsurfing) in Toa Payoh. It was late at night so we couldn’t see anything from the windows but we were pleasantly surprised by the politeness of people and it really is crazily multicultural. We met Ren and his other CSer Walter and they took us back to Ren’s flat for dinner and a chat before bed.
A day of exploring Singapore. We got the MRT to the city after breakfast with Ren and Walter and explored the Colonial area with old style British buildings including the Raffle Hotel which stood up to it’s reputation of being a grand building with large murials of animals including tigers on the walls. It was off to the ‘fountain of wealth’ next, apparently the largest water fountain in the world, but when we located it only a little bit of it was turned on so it wasn’t very impressive. We ventured down into the centre of the fountain area and touched the water, made a wish and walked around it 3 times like the sign told us to. We walked across towards the Arab quarter and on the way noticed a really cool, tall building which looked like it was from Batman, black and gold, so we wandered into it and it was so ornate on the inside! A security guard stopped us from taking photos as it turned out to be the Arab, Mongolian and Turkish Embassies so it was fair enough. We got a block of ice-cream from a vendor on the way and as we approached we noticed that the buildings looked very much like quaint French terraced houses - not really arabic with the exception of the arabic writing on the signs. We had a little wander to take in the colours of the buildings and to have a brief look at the mosque which I wasn't allowed to go into as I was wearing shorts but as Sam took off his shoes the man said that it was closed and to come back in 2 hours. It was pretty hot by this time so we got iced drinks in an Indian cafe then proceeded with our wandering around and found a mosque where a celebration had just finished and there were men covered in white powder and lots of flowers and decorations on the floor. It had started to rain by the afternoon so we sheltered in an internet cafe for an hour before venturing out to see the Merlion on the riverside. We were wet by the time we got there so took a couple of quick photos then went to catch the MRT. In the evening we made dinner for Ren and Walter which was so spicy that I could barely eat and of it. It was quite late after dinner so we played cards for a little while and taught them how to play Durag (the game we learnt in Russia) before bed.

Posted by SamAmy 03:25 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Crocodile cruise and selling our car

Amanda and Amy took Reece to the garage for his roadworthy test early in the morning as it needs to have one to be sold in Queensland but when we picked him up later we learnt that he had failed :( We trawled dealerships trying to sell him as we only can't sell to a private owner that wants to re-register it but no-one wanted him - even the scrap yard was full. In the afternoon we put up posters around hostels in the hope that a backpacker might buy it and drive it back South. It was late afternoon by the time we'd finished so Amanda and Amy had a dip in the lagoon whilst Sam read his book then we went for some last-minute souvenir shopping before dinner. We chose a nice looking steak house and it turned out to be really good! We had a look at the cuts of steak in the glass fridge and read the notes about them before choosing. I had hot spicy chicken wings and a crocodile burger which was really tasty white meat, Sam had a petite steak (his favourite cut) and Amanda chose a giant skewer of rump steak and veggies- 3 times more than she managed to eat :P After the meal we were stuffed to bursting so went back to our cabin to relax and digest!

Up at 6.30am for an action packed day of crocodiles!! We drove 100km North to Daintree and bought tickets for a Croc Express cruise. Once on the boat we had a chat with the guide who told us about the local wildlife-mainly birds, before we set off on our "wildlife cruise" - we were mostly interested in crocodiles though - obviously! We cruised up the river whilst the guide pointed out trees with giant seed pods, birds and he explained a bit about the history of the area but we were too busy looking for crocs. We turned the boat around to come back after 30 minutes and hadn't seen a single croc so were worried there might not be any about, but then, on the back only ~20 m from us was a large croc ~2.5m out of the water on a log. He was cool, big teeth, dinosaur-like tail and stocky legs. We admired him for a few minutes before a call over the radio of a second sighting so we went behind a little island and I spotted our second croc, 3m in length and under a tree soaking up the sun filtering through the leafy canopy. He was much harder to see than the last one because of the branches but was a lot closer and facing us- scary. We were all satisfied with our croc spots when we got off the boat but with our ticket we could go on unlimited boats from 3 locations all around this area so decided to try out a second cruise. I drove the 15 minutes down stream and we arrived to find the boat all ready to go so on we hopped with the other 4 people and a guide that supported Leeds AFC so was joking with Sam about him coming from Doncaster. This guide was much more into croc spotting with a little bit of other wildlife on the way back. We saw a mummy croc, lots of babies ~30cm long, 2 types of kingfisher, a common tree snake and lots of mangroves with "snorkel" roots to take oxygen straight from the air whilst rooted in swamps. We drove back to Cairns stopping for Amanda to take some photos of cool roadsigns and streams before it got too dark! We had kangaroo for dinner again and as it's Amanda's last night, she packed her bag, set the alarm for 4am and we went to sleep.

4am came around much quicker than I had expected and I was still half-asleep when I drove Amanda to the airport, we said goodbye and safe journeys then she flew to Brisbane and I called my parents as it is Dad's birthday then I went back to sleep for a couple of hours. We tried to write our blog in the holiday park but got told off for using too much internet time so ventured out to Coles (supermarket), bought some food, I did some cross-stitch whilst Sam read his magazine, made Carbonara and went to bed. Not a very exciting day and sad to say goodbye to Amanda :(
We had a lazy morning at the holiday park before a shop of shopping at the supermarket for our last few days here (just incase we sell the car!). We emptied the car of everything when we returned and took him around the dearlerships again to see if anyone would have him. We tried Spiros first but he said no, then "Cairns cheapest cars" where the guy said he would give us $200-300 but his boss will have to look at it tomorrow before he could say for definite and we leave tomorrow. We decided to try travellers autobarn and the man was really friendly and said that if we can't shift it, bring it back when we want rid and he'll give us $100. So we wait until tomorrow. We were already in the centre of town so thought that we'd have a look around for a souvenir for Sam. We went into the first decent looking shop that we saw (not tacky stuff from China) and began browsing. The owner came over and said that she'd tell us a bit about the works and how to look for fake art. Ok then. She told us about cheap bamboo didgeridoos and also that a certain way to tell a shop as not genuine was that it sold masks with dots on- just like the one that I bought 2 days ago. I didn't tell her this though and just said, hmmm yes. Sam took an interest in a painting of 2 turtles but as it was $1250 we couldn't really afford it! Once the owner had realised that he likes turtles she began turning the show upside down for anything with turtles on, apparently they are popular with the Chinese as they symbolise love. Sam chose a little oil painting with 2 turtles on and we thanked her for the advice and we posted the picture home.

Posted by SamAmy 06:35 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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