Shopping in India and Bangkok

Trip Start Oct 01, 2002
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Trip End Aug 08, 2005


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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Yes, away again to use up the rest of our around the world ticket. Alas we aren't going all the way back to Oz leaving us there forever enjoying the finer things in life. This time it was for a three week holiday come shopping trip so Sian could buy all the stuff she couldn't afford to the first time around!! Nevertheless, we were definitely excited to be on the road again although at the back of our minds we knew with a tinge of sadness that this was finally the end of our mammoth around the world tour.

Leaving with only 9kg of luggage in order to make room for all those goodies we were intent on buying, we arrived in Delhi late on the 16th July. Stepping back into the mayhem of the taxi stand it immediately felt as though the past 6 months of being back in reality hadn't happened. A manic night taxi ride took us back to Paharganj, tourist central in Delhi, and we still had the energy to wander around the hotels to find one that wasn't as bad as we remembered it to be. It's funny how easy it is to look back with rose tinted specs, we'd almost forgotten just how hellish and fantastic India can be at the same time. It's easy to remember the bad things with a smile thinking 'oh well, that's just India' and we were really excited to be returning. Needless to say we were slapped in the face with a reality check immediately on arrival, but yes, we still loved it!! Getting back to our arrival night, we probably don't need to write that as usual after an hour of searching we ended up in the first hotel we looked at!! More bizarre was that it was the exact same hotel we'd stayed at on our first visit, amusing to think that with a bigger budget there still aren't any decent hotels in the area and that those charging higher rates still didn't change the sheets between guests!!! After they cleaned the room, we finally fell into bed at 2a.m

The next day we managed to squeeze in a bit of shopping whilst we re-aquainted ourselves with the intensity of India. We found our way back to the train station and booked tickets out, then survived a manic cycle rickshaw back to the hotel which we tried to video for memory sake but unfortunately failed. Our next destination was to be Pushkar and we had quite a revelation on the journey there. The air conditioned chair car carriage on the train was comfy, spacious, cool and even had waiter service to bring us flasks of hot water and tea making kits along with some dubious looking food! We were rather bemused by the whole affair as we didn't even get that kind of service when we travelled first class on one of our earlier trips. We were suitably impressed and quite distraught that we hadn't discovered it sooner. We were soon back to reality though as after the train, a rickshaw, a local bus and a hand pushed trolley cart along bumpy mud roads finally took us to Pushkar.

Famed for its November camel fair and sacred water where Brahmin priests will bless you for an extortionate donation, we had missed it out on our last visit. This time we enjoyed exploring and we chilled out in this tourist town, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and yes, we shopped sufficiently, managing a walk around the lake in between. It's an incredibly important religious centre with pilgrims arriving throughout the year and the picturesque holy lake at its centre. However, after a couple of days we left on a 'tourist' bus that not surprisingly, really wasn't ....... The 6 hour journey took us off the beaten track to tiny villages where barely a road existed. Needless to say it was a pretty horrendous journey and arriving in Jodhpur we ditched the idea of checking out a variety of hotels and settled for the first. It seemed decent enough compared with past experiences and turned out to be really nice with a nice rooftop restaurant and our room had spectacular views of the city's cliff top fort with the sea of blue painted houses below for which Jodhpur is world renowned. We recovered enough from our journey to venture out into the main marketplace with its colonial clock tower, aromatic spice markets and general mayhem with hawkers all over the place tugging at our sleeves. We then ate at a popular rooftop restaurant, which proved to be a huge mistake as we both came down with horrendous food poisoning. In all our previous travelling neither of us had gotten as sick as this. Just as well we has a nice en-suite room with cable T.V. though after 2 days it was driving us mad and Sian felt well enough to venture out to the spectacular and majestic Meherangarh Fort, which is still run by the Maharaja of Jodhpur. Perched 125m above the city on a massive slab of rock it reminded us a little of Edinburgh castle! Kev ventured out too but was barely with it as we wandered round the massive palace with its ornate rooms and marvelled at the spectacular views over the Blue City. At the exit through the final gate are the 15 handprints of Maharaja Man Singh's widows who made their self-immolation marks as they left the palace for the final time in 1843 before they threw themselves on his funeral pire, a practice which still occasionally occurs in remote areas of India despite the fact it is outlawed.

Before we left Jodhpur we paid another visit to the spice market, got ripped off and then having found out that getting to the desert town of Jaisalmer was going to be too much hassle and too painful we left early one morning on a 'luxury' bus (actually it wasn't that bad a bus this time) bound for Udaipur. Udaipur had been one of our favourite cities during our first visit to India, despite its obvious tourist status, and we decided to go back, relax, enjoy and generally absorb the sights and smells India has to offer. We arrived around midday and opted for a room with a view overlooking the romantic and idyllic lake and luxury palace hotel famous for Bond's Octopussy. And there our dream ended abruptly. As we searched for the spectacular views we began to question our bearings and wonder if we were experiencing a typical Indian marketing ploy, and just what was that field full of cows doing in the middle of town? We really couldn't recall it from our first visit. But then we realised that the nice white building in the middle of the field was indeed the palace of former Bond glory and the lake was the field, it had dried up!! It was really quite funny and the cows thought it was fantastic having relocated themselves from the narrow smoggy roadside to the vast fertile plain before them, fields full of cows are indeed a rarity in India, they usually live in the middle of the roads...

We planned to stay in Udaipur for 4 nights and fully recover from our stomach bugs. We had a great time re-aquainting ourselves and really went to town on the shopping front as everything is so ridiculously cheap. We also fitted in a fantastic Indian cookery class with a local guy named Shakti who turned out to be a great friend when everything went pear shaped a couple of days later. We were booked on a flight to Mumbai on the evening of the 27th in time for an early morning connecting flight to Bangkok where we were going to spend 4 days shopping and eating before flying on again. When we went to say our goodbyes on the 26th the obvious question was 'where are you going?' however, when we replied 'Mumbai' we were met with snorts of laughter as everyone told us that Mumbai had effectively closed down due to the worst monsoon in history. Still, we were quietly confident that the major international airport would soon re-open but the next morning we were told our flight from Udaipur to Mumbai was first delayed then cancelled altogether as it was impossible to land. Frantic calls ensued by us to Cathay Pacific where the news just got worse as they told us the airport in Mumbai was closed indefinitely due to flooding. And so there we were, stranded in Udaipur and our 4 day trip in Bangkok shrinking by the hour. We were promised faithfully numerous times that we were definitely on the first flight out but of course we weren't on it when it left on the evening of the 28th. Thankfully our flight to Bangkok didn't leave either. We eventually escaped on the morning of the 29th after countless cups of masala tea from Shakti whilst he made the necessary phone calls to make sure we got out of Udaipur. When we finally arrived at the international airport at 11 am it was chaos, bodies sleeping everywhere but worse was that they were on emergency electricity only, which meant few lights and zero air conditioning. Our flight seemed to get more and more delayed and the temperature continued to rise inside the terminal, up to 38 C whilst they ran out of water. Finally we were allowed to check in but not until 7pm and our flight finally left at 3.30 the next morning just as the torrential rain started again. It didn't look as though we'd get to fly at all as we were told only one runway was open and our incoming aircraft circled for more than an hour unable to land as the runway was too short for the size of the aircraft!!! We were lucky, Qantas refused to fly until after the 3rd due to safety reasons and just after we flew out an Air India flight skidded off the runway and closed everything down again. We were left wondering why it is that India seems reluctant to let us leave peacefully, we thought our first escape was horrendous, this wasn't much better.

Well we finally got to Bangkok and into our hotel around midday on the 30th. Enough time to spend the rest of the day catching up on lost sleep and shopping frantically on the Koh Sarn Road. The next day was spent shopping at the weekend market, still we managed to get heaps of stuff so maybe it was just as well we didn't have much time!! We left our whistlestop tour of Bangkok early on the morning of August 1st, this time bound for a place neither of us had visited before, Hong Kong.
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Comments

Sameer Kohli on

Now we can shop without borders. www,Shop USA Ship International.com ships anything we purchase online in American stores.

SUMI on

Shop from US stores and have them shipped to you by SUMI (ShopUSAmailinternational.com) - Shop USA Mail International

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