Goodbye, Incredible India!

Trip Start Feb 04, 2013
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Trip End Ongoing


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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Getting out of Leh turned out to be way easier than assumed as we were able to arrange an over-night 13hr jeep ride as soon as the roads were officially open again.
 
Apart from braking down (for no obvious reason that the driver could explain) in the middle of the night and finding hardly any sleep in a packed jeep (with 8 people plus luggage) the ride was not too spectacular.
 
My next destination was Srinagar, the heart of Kashmir. 
 
Back in the days, the British colonists were not permitted to own land in Srinagar, but still wanted to spend their holidays in the region, which is why someone came up with the smart idea of using houseboats instead.
 
This leftover from the colonial era nowadays still attracts lots of tourists coming to Srinagar every year, who want to stay on a houseboat on the Dal Lake.
 
As there are about 1.200 houseboats to choose from, and both prices and quality of them strongly vary, you need to be lucky to find value for money as well as a boat owner whom you trust to be sure to get back to shore safely ...
 
Well, the boat we chose only fulfilled one of these criteria as it was pretty cheap. Quality-wise, let me say; we did not sink but had Wifi. And regarding the trustworthyness of the boat owner; he and his rikshaw-driver-friend tried to scam us again. But fortunately we once again got away somehow after doing some sightseeing and chilling on the lake for 2 days.
 
Another long journey took us to McLeod Ganj, a Tibetan refugee village and the official exile of his Holyness the Dalai Lama. McLeod Ganj as well as the sorrounding villages also is a place which makes it easy to hang out there for some time as it is quite laid back and hassle-free in comparison to other Indian cities.
 
Unfortunately the Dalai Lama was not around for a personal meeting this time so we have to arrange a seperate meeting later on...
 
Nevertheless, I was still able to visit his temple and see lots of modern Tibetan monks as they were walking through the streets and browsing the internet on their iPhones.
 
As soon as we got to Amritsar though, the hassle continued as soon as we got off the bus. In fact, it already started on the bus already because some of the local vultures (rikshaw-drivers and those who work on comission basis for hotels, travel agencies, shops, etc.) had simply entered the bus when it slowed down before arriving at the bus stop in order to get hold of us, their prey.
 
But after 3 months of Indian 'training' you get used to that and fighting them off becomes even fun.
In Amritsar we visited the Golden temple, which is one of the most impressive temples I have been to. Also it is the first Sikh temple I visited so far, which was really interesting as the people here (the men in particular) were mostly wearing big colourful turbans, were mostly carrying daggers and had impressive mustaches.
 
Later on we, among thousands of others, toured to Wagah to watch the border closing ceremony which takes place there every evening and is basically a big show performed by both Pakistani and Indian soldiers.
 
I am really glad that I have only visited this place after having spent quite some time in India already as I could enjoy the Indian patriotism, the posing, dancing and marching even more this way - especially when understanding the special situation between India and Pakistan.
 
On my birthday I took a train from Amritsar to New Delhi, where my Indian adventure started in the first place three months before. 
 
I was welcomed warmly again by Chanakya (an Indian friend) and his parents, where I had also  stayed previosly two months earlier and I was really touched when they not only prepared amazing food  but also had a birthday cake for me!
 
In the next couple of days Andy and me then simply enjoyed hanging out in Delhi, meeting friends we made during our travels and had to make some final preparations for our onward travels while being spoilt with our host's fantastic cuisine.
 
And after 3 months since arriving in this amazing country, of which I had been travelling together with Andy for more than 2 months, it was sadly time to say goodbye, looking back at good memories.
 
One of the most amazing aspects of my travels through India was experiencing it's diversity: 
 
Although I have 'only' visited a fraction (Delhi, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Haryana) of the total 28 States and 7 Union Territories of India, I can clearly say that no two regions are the same.
 
Every state varies in topography and climate such as the dry and hot sand deserts in Rqjasthan or the or the chilly Hymalayan mountain ranges in Himachal Pradesh.
 
And also people-wise both the looks and the mentalities differ which I could even see in the past week when I experienced 4 different religions since coming from Ladakh (Buddhism in Leh, Islam in Srinagar, Sikhism in Amritsar and Hinduism in Delhi).
 
And most important of all - although there might have been one or two uncomfortable train, jeep or bus rides, sleazy hotels and people who tried to rip me off - the last three months (including the time in Nepal) were fanstastic as I experienced things, which I would have never thought to be possible and made new friends!
 
India, it's true, what they say, you're INCREDIBLE and I am sure that I will be back!
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