First of all, I would like to congratulate all EBA/EM/IBL graduates who are about to graduate (or have graduated already, depending when this blog is going to be published). Graduation ceremony would have been probably the only day when I actually would have loved to be at work in person. You will go far and I hope you will stay in touch!
I have made my way to India and Nepal since my last blog and I will soon move to South East Asia. This bit of my travels has been a true roller coaster with pretty much anything extreme. Extreme poverty, extreme beauty, extreme amounts of people, extreme noises, extreme silence etc. It is great to notice that even seasoned traveler can be shaken a bit, though!
I keep the same format I used last time. Hope you enjoy this blog entry and do ask questions and comment if you feel like it! Do check out the photos as well.
1. Himalayan sunrises
Waking up early has never been my cup of tea but I don’t think there is a better place in the world to do it than Nepal. You are rewarded with amazing views of Himalayan mountains when first rays of sun reach different snow capped peaks with orange glow. What a views! Something that I don’t think I could ever get used to watching.
2. Trekking in Nepal
Another thing that Nepal is great for is trekking opportunities. Among the most popular ones are Everest Base Camp trek (14-20 days) and Annapurna Circuit Trek (12-19 days). I was short on time so I ended up doing 4 nights, 5 day trek close to Annapurna. First two days were raining heavily and there were landslides on the route making it difficult to climb. After rising from 1000 meters to 3000 meters in wet clothes there is nothing better than to find a nice lodge with wood fire heated oven where to dry up and eat some apple pie! Rest of the time sun came out revealing wonderful scenery. One thing is for sure, I will be back!
3. Slow traveling
Traveling here can be really slow. As westerner it is difficult to comprehend how long covering even short distances can take. It might look like than 100 kilometer stretch on a highway (yep, they are called highways!) could not take more than 2 hours but somehow you end up spending 8 hours in a bus. One needs to change attitude towards traveling to enjoy it but once you have done it, it is really enjoyable. Great for people watching, getting to know locals and simply letting go the idea that things have to get done fast. Carpe diem!
4. Banana lassi
Indian and Nepali food offer great experiences for food lovers (and not so great experiences as well as you can read below) but one of my personal favorites is banana lassi. It is a drink with yoghurt, water, sugar and naturally banana. Thick milkshake like drink that tastes divine!
5. Taj Mahal
There is so much hype about Taj Mahal that my expectations were really high. So high that I felt that I might be disappointed to see it in the real life. I wasn’t. Despite of all touts and hardships in Agra (and that steep ticket price) as soon as I got into the grounds of Taj Mahal it was as magical as I was hoping for. A place to experience in the lifetime for everyone.
1. Delhi belly
I have always considered myself a lucky person with only minor stomach related problems on my travels. Well, I have found my winner now and it is called India. I had heard horror stories from my friends who had visited India so I took extra care of being as hygienic as possible and eating in better places. Still, that did not work. Not a nice experience I can tell you!
2. Poverty stinks
No, I am not talking about that band (even though it probably could be on the list) but the real poverty that affect millions of people. I had one of the biggest shocks that I can remember when flying from Sri Lanka to India. It was evening, hot, humid and air was thick of pollution when I passed hundreds of people sleeping on the streets, rats running everywhere and me, I was going to sleep in my three star hotel. This is not right. We need to do something about it and make poverty history.
3. Agra/Varanasi touts, cheaters, tuk-tuk and riksha drivers…
In my previous blog entry I condemned mass tourism and I continue to do the same now. I know that all these crazy sales people, touts, riksha drivers etc. are by products of mass tourism but I did not realize how extreme it can get in Agra (city of Taj Mahal) and Varanasi (holy city of Hindus). Say one word to them and they will follow you for hours, touch you and just annoy you in every possible way. Those of you who know me can probably somehow understand my level of frustration – I was very close to slapping few people in the face but luckily I did not do it.
4. Double pricing
I have seen different prices for foreigners elsewhere but both India and Nepal have taken this to a whole new level. Or what do you think about Taj Mahal entrance ticket prices – 20 rupees (€0.30) for Indian nationals and 750 rupees (€11.30) for foreigners. I can live with double or triple prices as wrong as they are but this is downright discrimination. Not all foreigners are rich! It was not only Taj Mahal but pretty much all major sights; even some parks have done it.
5. Indian visa rules
This time I am complaining about Indian visa rules that have changed recently making it more difficult to travel into neighboring countries. My plan was to get from Nepal to Bangladesh trough India but tight visa rules do not allow me to do that. I was looking for flights, too but they turned out to be outrageously high so I opted out Bangkok instead with 1/3 of the price. I really would have loved to see Bangladesh as it is off the beaten track (all the better!) and of course as I had heard so many great things about the country from one of our students, Kafil. Oh well, Bangladesh will have to stay on my to-do list.
Did you know…?
Indian railways is the second biggest employer in the world after Wal-Mart (sigh) employing some 1.5 million people and moving over 30 million passengers daily.
The most populated country in the world…
China might be the most populated country in the world at the moment but it is expected that by 2030 India will be the number one. Currently India has 1.2 billion people and China 1.3 billion.
Nepali flag and time zone
Nepal is the only country in the world not to have rectangular or square flag. It has two triangles instead that are said to represent the Himalayan Mountains. Nepal also boasts interesting time zone – it is +05:45 UTC, making it the second country in the world to have 45 minute increment to UTC. According to some Nepali people want to distinguish themselves from India – Nepal is 15 minutes ahead of India.
Women in Nepal
Nepali proverb reflects how girls are viewed in the society: “raising a girl is like watering your neighbor’s garden”. Parents want to have sons and it also shows in statistics: only 933 girls are born for 1000 boys. Women have hard times in many other fields as well. Nepali husband can even marry again if his wife has not given them a son after 10 years of marriage!
It may seem odd but British army has a recruiting center for Gurkha soldiers inNepal. Gurkha soldiers are considered to be one of the best and toughest soldiers in the world and they have been taking part in peace keeping missions inAfghanistan,Bosnia andSierra Leone to mention few. Money plays a big part and so does probably British citizenship what Gurkha’s get on retirement.
- Where’s Marko? Travel Diary Entry 1 (metropoliablog.fi)