Sunday, January 8, 2017

India Part 2: Agra to Jaipur

India Part 2: Agra to Jaipur


The Taj Mahal is a madhouse but it is beautiful.

I took an early train from Delhi to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. My train out of Agra was later that night as recommended to me by someone working at the hostel I stayed at in Delhi. This was a mistake because there were huge delays and I ended up splitting a taxi with a nice Russian couple.

My first stop in the state of Rajasthan was Jaipur. Jaipur is a beautiful city filled with palaces and a giant fort balled The Amber Fort. The architecture of these old forts and buildings surrounding the usual market and street scenes, as well as the occasional elephant or camel walking down the street, really give you the feel of what Rajasthan has to offer. This was the first day of many filled with the forts and palaces of Rajasthan. There was also delicious food as usual.












Monday, January 2, 2017

India Part 1: New Delhi

India Part 1: New Delhi

I came prepared for the worst: stomach issues, poverty, demonetization and pollution. Those expectations are probably why I liked Delhi better than expected. To sum up Delhi, and India so far, it is beautiful despite being dirty.

The food has been a highlight. I went on an early morning bicycle tour of old Delhi pretty much as soon as I arrived. During the tour we ate some fresh baked roti that was baked right in the street in a mass production for a large portion of the city. It was very fresh but because of the location and dirtiness I was a bit worried that I would be getting sick on my first day. Later in the tour I also tried some fresh guava for the first time in my life followed by a popular Indian breakfast. A few hours later I was still feeling great and have gotten more adventurous with the foods that I eat. And, they have been just the best.

The poverty thing strikes me as being what my hometown of Portland Oregon would look like if the population was somewhere around the 20 million mark that is Delhi. That is to say, it wasn't quite as shocking or awful as I expected, but it is a fact of life here.

Demonetization made me extremely worried as soon as I arrived because it was very difficult to get any cash at the airport and none of the taxis took cards. After finally getting some cash and taking the subway (to save cash) into the city I quickly got the hang of it and haven't had too difficult of a time finding cash.

The pollution is real!

Now for the pictures: foods, forts, markets and temples of all sorts.



















Friday, December 30, 2016

Nepal Part 3: Chitwan National Park

Nepal Part 3: Chitwan National Park

This addition to my trip was Rick's idea and was a pretty cool experience as well so. Rick, nice call! Chitwan is one of the few places where tigers still live in the wild. This was the main attraction and unfortunately we didn't see one, but, we did see a handful of wild rhinos. Pretty cool if you ask me. There are a ton of other wildlife in the area which, as you can see from my pictures, can be quite difficult to photograph without really great (expensive) photography gear. I did my best.

Our trip in Chitwan was a 2 night 3 day walking tour with a short canoe ride at the beginning. Other than the wildlife the highlights for me were the first nights stay in a very small village called Madi, and the awesome tour guides. To get to Madi (as well as leave) we had to cross a river. The food out our home-stay in the village was the best Nepali food we had this trip. Also, I haven't seen stars like that in years. After dinner in Madi our tour guide told us about an infamous wild elephant in the area who has killed tens of villagers in Madi and surrounding areas. In the morning or first military checkpoint (the place you show your pass to enter the park) had been visited by this famous elephant. Some damage had been done to the fence and one of the buildings but no one was hurt.

Other than the dozens of deer, boars, crocodiles, monkeys and different birds, there were a couple of wildlife highlights to the trip as well. Very early the first day the guides stopped us and told us to be quite because they heard some rusting in the bushes. To my untrained ear I thought the rustling was so loud that it must be an elephant or a rhino. After a few seconds I noticed that the animal was extremely close, so close that I could hear the deep breathing. Turns out this was a pair of sloth bears. They dig into the ground to find termites and breath deeply to suck them up. We didn't spot them but they couldn't have been more than ten feet away.

The other cool wildlife spotting was a time that our guides really showed their tracking ability. We followed the guide off the jeep path into the unbeaten path like many other times before. After walking around for some time, clearly looking for something that they smelled or sensed or saw signs of that were completely invisible to me and rick, both of our guides started to climb a tree. They quickly told us to climb the tree and before we could even start climbing the loud stomps of a rhino mother and its child came toward us. Luckily they were running away from us because I'm not sure the tree would have been enough. From the tree we could see the two rhinos clearly.

As for tigers, we could see where they clawed up the trees and ground to mark their territory. There were also tons of tracks in the sand and mud every day. One time I think the guide must have got us very close because we got to an area where something had been freshly killed and we could smell the scent of the animal marking its area. The guide eventually decided it must have been a leopard by the way the tracks disappeared.

Overall Chitwan was quite fun and despite not seeing any of the harder to spot animals we both had a good time walking through the jungle with our guides.














Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Nepal Part 2: Everest Base Camp

Nepal Part 2: Everest Base Camp


After a lot of research we decided to do the the Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek on our own; we went without a porter (to carry our stuff) or a guide. The best argument I could find for hiring a guide is economical benefits to the local economy; however, this region is much better off than the rest of Nepal and the act of coming and being a tourist here will help continue this positive trend for the region. We did not hire a porter because we didn't want to watch someone carry all of our stuff up the hill for us. That being said, 90% of the people we encountered had a porter and a guide. If you want to do the trek all I can recommend is to do research and see what you think best fits your preference. I would discourage hiring western companies, they are over priced and don't help the locals very much.

Why did I decide to do this? Nepal, along with many of my past travel choices was chosen by looking at a map and airfare prices. I always wanted to visit India and that was my starting point when I came across Nepal as an interesting destination that was nearby. The more I read about Nepal the more I became interested in doing a trek. I invited my step dad, Rick, and once he decided he wanted to go the rest just fell into place.

Was it hard? Yes. You walk all day every day for a minimum of twelve days in high altitude and the hiking itself is not exactly easy. Some parts are more difficult than others but the high altitude and long distances makes the whole thing pretty hard. It was harder than I expected, but not too hard for anyone in decent shape.Anyway, here are some of my favorite pictures.  


















Monday, December 26, 2016

Nepal Part 1: Kathmandu

Nepal Part 1: Kathmandu

As promised (mostly to myself), I will be blogging my travels over the next year or two. It was a bittersweet farewell to my coworkers, students and friends in Korea when I took off on December 1st 2016. The first leg of my trip was a short sixteen hour layover in Chengdu, China before arriving in Kathmandu, Nepal.

I don't have much to say about Chengdu since I only had time to take a nighttime walk through the “old” main tourist street, eat a few things and sleep at my hotel. China seems interesting and I hope to have the opportunity to spend more time there some day.
The next day I arrived in Kathmandu where I met my stepdad, Rick. We spent about three days in Kathmandu shopping, purchasing flights and making last minute plans before starting out on our Everest Base Camp (EBC) Trek. We also ended up having time to see some of the main sights in Kathmandu. The history, culture and religion were all fascinating to see. Nothing I write will do these places justice so I will just show the pictures and make a few notes about what it is. I highly recommend looking up more information about the significance if you see something that interests you.







Swayambhu aka Monkey Temple

A bit of a drive to get here, this is a temple on top of a hill where many monkeys live. The temple is large and beautiful. The damage from the earthquake was apparent and like many other places in Nepal a sad site to witness. The monkeys are very used to people and there are a ton of them up there. Definitely worth a visit for the temple, monkeys and a great view of the city.














Pashupatinath


This was the most interesting site we visited in Kathmandu. It is an extremely holy place where all Hindu's make a trip to at least once in their life. There are weddings, cremations and other religious activities happening every day here. The cremations in the river are unlike anything I have seen. It was a humbling experience to see everything that was happening here. Foreigners are not allowed in the temple for obvious reasons, however, this is a place I highly recommend experiencing.










Boudha Stupa

The last place we visited was yet another Buddhist holy site. It's one of the largest stupas in the world and an extremely holy place for Tibetan Buddhists. As far as I know a stupa is a place for prayer. Buddhist circle the stupa and turn the prayer wheels as part of a religious prayer.











Misc. Pictures