Monthly Archives: January 2012

Uncover India: Pushkar to Goa

On Christmas day, we took a privately-chartered bus to Pushkar…except the engine broke down which took about 2 hours to fix and, after we got back on the road, we got a flat tire. Merry Christmas? Although hours delayed, we finally made it in time for dinner in…

Pushkar, India

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Most of us were up at 5am the next morning to go hike up a hill for 1.5 hours to the Savitri Temple (dedicated to Savitri, the wife of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation) to catch the sunrise over the city. Sunrises are beautiful no matter where you are.

Shortly after this, a nearby snack stand opened up and we had a nice breakfast of crackers and cookies. At the sound of a wrapper crinkle, however, a monkey grabbed at my arm several times and I let out a fearful scream. Ricky shooed it away and I quickly put my biscuits into my bag. The feeling of their grabby little fingers on my arm was slightly terrifying.

One thing the monkeys didn’t grab at was our small cups of chai tea. All of us were addicted to the stuff and after watching the guy make it, I almost went into diabetic shock. After stewing the spices in boiling water and milk, the guy added in the sugar spoonful by spoonful at first. Then, he decided to just forgo the spoon and dump the sugar into the saucepan directly from the jar. Eep.

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This dog, who I lovingly named Sirius Black, followed us all the way up the hill and back down. When another monkey tried to attack me as I tried sneaking in a biscuit, he barked furiously and scared the monkeys away. As a thank you, I fed him half of my package of high fiber biscuits. Unfortunately, this did not stop me from snacking more later.

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Pushkar Lake is a sacred lake thought to be the king of pilgrimage sites (the “Tirtha Raj”). A dip in the lake is said to cleanse your sins and a fair is held annually during which people swarm to the lake to take the sacred dip. You put your hand upon my hip. When I dip, you dip, we dip. (Totally not a sacred song.)

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With some free time on our hands, we chilled out by the lake while others took a yoga class. A Hindu priest gave prayers and blessings by the lake for anyone who gave an offering. I just spent my money on snacks and more chai tea instead. [Sinks head in shame.]

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Some of the girls and I had the chance to wear traditional clothing and go on a camel adventure to the desert. The camels were foaming at the mouth like a dishwasher running on too much detergent and I couldn’t tell if they were severely dehydrated or if this was a natural occurrence. As they passed by me, strings of saliva were pendulum-swinging dangerously close to my leg and I tried to balance admiring the scenery and avoiding being whacked by oral fluids. Apparently the foaming mouths were indicative of mating season. I guess camels have a different standard of sexiness.

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Dinner was cooked and served by local cameleers while music and dance were performed by the Roma people. Once we became involved, the dance then turned into dominos (see above). I’m not quite sure how or when this happened but, this may have been one of those times when some of the girls became closer – Beth, Ozlem, Vanessa, Gordana, Lena and I. All the single (traveling) ladies, all the single (traveling) ladies! Now, put your hands up! Maybe I should stop with the song lyrics.

After a gorgeous sunset and a nail clipping moon crescent, we headed back to the hotel in a jeep and hung out on the rooftop with some random firecrackers, rum & cokes and Ricky dancing. I feel like our nights usually ended this way and it sure was memorable!

Udaipur

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We reached Udaipur by dinnertime the next day and saw the City Palace lit up against the night sky. This city is known as the “Venice of the East”due to its many lakes and palaces.

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We visited the City Palace during the day. The details inside were so amazingly colorful.

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Love, love and…

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Love!

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We took a boat ride on Lake Pichola which has four small islands, each of which has some sort of palace. Our plan was to get off at one with the Jag Mandir Palace to enjoy tea time but, by the time we got there, the bar had closed and we were left beverageless. Whomp whomp!

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To tourists, this is just a nice lake to take a nice boat ride on but, to some of the locals, this lake is part of their livelihood. It is where some people bathe and wash their clothes. I could be quick to say that this is the harsh reality. But, I don’t know the true story of these people’s lives. Maybe it’s a normal thing to wash up in the lake. Or, maybe not.

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We visited a studio of a group of artists who specialize in traditional paintings. To demonstrate their skill, they painted one nail on each girl with either an elephant, camel, peacock, maharaja or maharani. I got an elephant, the symbol for good luck.

While all the girls were getting their nails did, we asked Shimron (the only guy, minus the tour guide) if he was going to participate. He quickly said no, and told us that the painter had something else in mind for him. The painter promised that it’d be something more “masculine.” So, Shimron just sat there and zoned out as his nail was being drawn on. A few minutes later, I hear a wailing…

Shimron: “NOOOOOOOOOO!”

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Nice.

We later hit up a movie theater to watch a Bollywood film, Don 2. Just like Korean dramas, Bollywood films are quite addictive and afterwards, all of us became obsessed with Bollywood music. Anyone want to be my chammak challo? Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di? Remember, no touching, no touching! Only seeing, only seeing! No kissing, no kissing! I say only seeing, only seeing!

Ranakpur, India

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After being in crowded cities, we loved Ranakpur for the nature and the peace it provided. Of course, that also meant more animal roadblocks.

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Rum replenishment – always a priority.

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We stopped along mustard fields and stared up at a tree that was filled with large pine cones or some sort of round brown/black fruit. They turned out to be bats. About 70 or so of them in one tree. I thought they were creepy at the time but, after seeing some photos of swaddled baby bats drinking milk through baby bottles (somewhere on social media), I think they are kind of cute.

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Finding our zen in the sun…or just gossiping about something.

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I must admit, I was a little Jain templed out but, this particular one was magnificent. The intricate details and the tranquility in the temple had me in a constant state of awe.

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I imagine that whoever sculpted this may have had some serious hand cramps.

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Forget Bob Ross’ happy little trees. Check this one out!

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It was New Year’s Eve’s Eve. Later that night after dinner, it had become so cold that all of us huddled around a toasty fire pit. To add even more warmth (and flammability), we filled up on rum and began dancing to Bollywood music around the fire in a sort of chant to the gods. I’m not sure how the gods would feel about the music but, even they can’t deny its catchiness.It was New Year’s Eve’s Eve. Later that night after dinner, it had become so cold that all of us huddled around a toasty fire pit. To add even more warmth (and flammability), we filled up on rum and began dancing to Bollywood music around the fire in a sort of chant to the gods. I’m not sure how the gods would feel about the music but, even they can’t deny its catchiness.

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On the actual New Year’s Eve, we took a 15 hour train ride to Mumbai (fka Bombay) and rang in the new year on the most uncomfortable train beds which some of us shared with each other. Not only was the group separated into 2 different cars, only 10 beds were “confirmed” for the 16 of us. Gotta love India. Oh, and happy 2012.

Mumbai (fka Bombay)

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After our rough overnight train ride, all of us decided to take it easy in Mumbai. We walked around the Gateway of India, stopped in the lobby of the Taj Hotel and ultimately decided not to have that famous cup of tea. Instead, we went shopping.

In one of the alleyways, we spotted a kitten the size of my hand, with patches of fur missing from its body. It was walking around feebly on a random sidewalk with no other kittens or cats around. Gordana bought a small carton of milk and fed the kitten, while a crowd of local Indians began to crowd around and watch. I’m pretty sure the kitten didn’t survive but, I hope it felt some love from us beforehand 🙁

Later that night, it was someone’s request that we grab drinks at the famed Leopold Cafe. I honestly don’t remember much from that night and, not because I was drunk. It just wasn’t that memorable. The one thing I do remember is taking a cab where the driver installed green lights all throughout the interior as if to create a party experience. It worked maybe for a minute at the most.

Goa

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We took a flight to Goa the next day and, man, what an oasis it was from the crowded cities. We arrived in the afternoon and stayed at a hotel in North Goa where the mood was light and airy. After hitting up some bars in town, some of us girls ended up back at the hotel with Gordana’s homemade Slovenian plum brandy (about 50-60% alcohol volume) and a bottle of vodka won in some raffle by our Italian guy neighbors. Hangovers were undoubtedly inevitable.

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The next day was a lazy day at the beach where I further dehydrated myself trying to get a decent tan. I burped up a nice plum brandy taste and finally cured that hangover with a fresh seafood and vindaloo lunch by the shore, juicy pineapples and a full body massage on the beach. Why didn’t we just spend the entire trip here? Har har.

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The group of girls I became close with decided to postpone their outgoing flights and stay an extra day or two in Goa. I wanted to stay so badly but, I was making a stop in NYC to visit my family for the new year before heading back to Madrid. Perhaps my family could’ve waited… hehe. Only kidding.