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Awards

14 Dec

We thought we would compile a list of awards for the trip, a “best of” and “worst of” of sorts. We came up with a number of different categories and nominations for each. We voted on the winner of each category to determine a winner (denoted by bold type). Most of the categories resulted in three different votes, so we argued and pleaded to narrow it down to one winner (except in two cases). Here goes…

 

THE MOST SURPRISING MOMENT AWARD

1)  Tahrir Square being peaceful and empty when we drove through it in a cab for the first time.

2)  Being split up at the very start of our trip when Typhoon Bolaven “forced” our flight to be cancelled.

3)  Having the exact same itinerary as Dan in Jordan and him offering to drive us through the country.

4)  Alan telling us he was flying to Australia.

5)  When Alan realized Dane and Eric would not be going to North Korea, and he was on his own.

comments:  It blind sided everyone, even Alan a little bit. Nothing else could top it.

 

THE CRAZIEST EXPERIENCE AWARD

1)  Being driven by a drunk taxi driver in India.

2)  Taking the local bus in Nepal with wooden floors that accelerated through the winding mountain turns that hugged cliff faces.

3)  Having to walk past a cobra in an alley in Varanasi.

4)  The overnight trains in India.

5)  Shark diving in Cape Town.

6)  Dealing with altitude sickness on our Everest Trek.

7)  Witnessing the training of young kids to perform at the Mass Games at the Children’s Museum in North Korea.

comments:  There were a number of crazy experiences on our trip, and any number of them could have been chosen as the craziest. We had to go with shark diving, though for the sheer amount of crazy we personally had to have in our own minds to actually go through with the experience, especially since we had seen a youtube video days before which showed a Great White breaching one of the cages.

 

FAVORITE PLACE AWARD

1)  Varkala, India

2)  Cape Town, South Africa

3)  Petra, Jordan

4)  Namche Bazaar, Nepal

5)  North Korea

6)  Mark’s Parent’s house

comments:  This one was unanimous. Cape Town is beautiful and there is lots to do there. We were meant to stay for four days and ended up staying for eight. We could have stayed longer.

 

FAVORITE SITE AWARD

1)  Mount Everest

2)  Taj Mahal

3)  Petra

4)  Pyramids

5)  Table Mountain

comments:  One of the ties. It’s hard to separate these two. Dane voted for Petra number one and Pyramids number two. Eric voted Pyramids number one and Petra number two. Alan wasn’t there, so he voted for the Taj Mahal number one. We had to overrule him.

 

MOST CONTROVERSIAL BLOG POST

1)  A Day in the Life of Alan

2)  India Wrap Up

3)  The post where Eric drank the finger water

comments:  Alan was in no part responsible for this blog, but it caused quite an uprising amongst friends and family because Dane and Eric failed to fully specify that it wasn’t written by Alan and it was a joke. Our bad.

 

THE “WEIRDED US OUT” AWARD

1)  When an Indian man looked into Eric’s eyes as the sun disappeared below the horizon on the beach and lovingly asked, “What are you thinking about?”

2)  Alan telling us he was flying to Australia.

3)  Ram getting jealous when we were interacting with another trekking group on our way up to Everest Base Camp.

comments:  As Eric said, only his girlfriend has ever asked him such a question. So, it was strange for a man who he didn’t know to approach him out of the blue and ask it. It definitely weirded us out. Still does.

 

THE “INCREDIBLE INDIA” AWARD

1)  Trash everywhere.

2)  The constant lies and the constant cheating.

3)  The drunk taxi driver who was allowed to keep driving after paying his fine.

4)  The overly crowded liquor store in Alleppey at 11 am on a Monday.

5)  The seemingly 496:1 ratio of men to women.

comments:  Unpopular opinion alert:  we didn’t absolutely and totally fall in love with India, which everyone else in the world seems to have, especially the other travelers we met along the way. We didn’t absolutely hate it, but we didn’t absolutely love it. That’s why we picked our “India Wrap Up” blog ended up on the most controversial award list. That said, the drunk taxi driver who was let off with a fine and handed his keys to continue driving has to be the most ridiculous thing we experienced in India.

 

THE BEST NIGHT OUT AWARD

1)  Dane’s birthday in Maun.

2)  Eric-Sean 2012.

3)  Long Street in Cape Town.

4)  The umbrella drinks only night in Kovalam.

5)  The braai and bar crawl in Kommetjie.

6)  Sunday night watching Home Alone and drinking beer in bed at our Cairo hostel.

comments:  Lots of food, lots of beer, lots of friends. A wonderful time that slightly edges out the other nights on the list (except #6, it blows #6 out of the water).

 

THE BEST IMPROMPTU JOURNEY (SITE) AWARD

1)  Australia

2)  India/Pakistan Border

3)  Dahab

4)  Mount Sinai

comments:  We were all there for this one, and it tuned out to be an absolutely amazing experience I would recommend to anyone. There were hype men!

 

THE MOST CHAOTIC PLACE AWARD

1)  Varanasi

comments:  No other place even comes close to making the list. It would be an insult to compare anything else to it. It’s the most chaotic place anyone of us has ever been times 100.

 

THE MOST STUNNING FIRST LOOK AWARD

1)  The Pyramids at Giza

2)  The Treasury at Petra

3)  The top of Mount Everest

4)  Varanasi

comments:  This was a split vote, but again anything on the list easily could have won the top award. The top of Everest is something neither of us will ever forget.

 

THE BEST IMPROMPTU CREW AWARD

1)  The backwater boat tour group

2)  The attendees of Eric-Sean 2012

3)  The A-Team on the first leg of the safari from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls

comments:  There were some great people we met along the way. The A-Team was an odd collection of people that really meshed together. They made the long drives between stops on the safari enjoyable, a hard task to do.

 

THE BEST ALAN REPLACEMENT AWARD

1)  Dan from Jordan

2)  Narelle aka the “oracle” from the safari

3)  Peter from India

4)  Rich from Bangkok

comments:  The chef from London takes this one. It was a heated race, but Peter pulled it out by a nose. He was wonderful company, and it helped that we met up with him days after Alan left.

 

THE BEST RANDOM GAME AWARD

1)  Throwing rocks at other rocks everywhere

2)  Playing catch with minnows in the Okavango Delta

3)  Converting a rugby ball into an American football for a game of catch on the beach

comments:  The reason this idiotic game wins is because we did this in every country we visited.

 

THE MOST DISAPPOINTING MOMENT AWARD

1)  Missing North Korea

2)  Alan leaving

3)  Alan returning

comments:  This one will haunt Dane and Eric. We really wanted a peak behind the curtain, especially after living in South Korea, but it wasn’t meant to be. All we have are Alan’s amazing photos and stories from his time there.

 

THE MOST ROMANTIC MOMENT OF THE TRIP AWARD

1)  Eric and Alan’s one year sleeping in the same bed anniversary

2)  Eric not going on any international vacations without Dane for the last two years

3)  Eric and Dane spending nearly every moment of three months together

4)  Alan flying to Adelaide to surprise his lady love.

comments:  No question.

 

THE WEIRDEST DAY AWARD

1)  The day Alan told us he was going to Australia

2)  Day one of the trip when Eric and Dane were still in Seoul.

3)  Day two of the trip when Eric and Dane were still in Seoul.

4)  Taking the coast road along the garden route and seeing the coast for a maximum of 10 minutes.

5)  Not knowing who the President of the United States was while we were camping in the Okavango Delta.

comments:  The day Alan told us he was leaving was still the weirdest. We went to the southernmost tip of India. It wasn’t worth it, and we were trying to piece together in our mind why Alan was leaving what we saw as a trip of a lifetime. It must be love.

 

THE MOST DIFFICULT DAY AWARD

1)  When altitude sickness hit Eric hard after the second rest day.

2)  The Trek down to Lukla from Namche Bazaar.

3)  23 hours of flight time, not including a four hour layover in Abu Dhabi, on the way back to America.

comments:  For the three of us, the trek down to Lukla was probably the most difficult. It was raining, we were tired, and the distance took us all day to cover. But what Eric went through with altitude sickness has to top it. And he continued hiking!

 

THE BEST OF NEPAL AWARD

1)  Base Camp

2)  Eating steaks in Kathmandu after returning from the Himalayas

3)  Having internet again after 10 days without it.

comments:  An easy choice. It’s where we literally were at the foot of the top of the world. It was the pinnacle of our trek and the reason we went to Nepal in the first place.

 

THE BEST OF INDIA AWARD

1)  The India/Pakistan border

2)  The Taj Mahal

3)  Varkala

4)  The Golden Temple at Amritsar

comments:  There is a reason everyone goes to see the Taj Mahal. It’s beautiful, and it dominates the surrounding sky. If you get the chance, go. You won’t be disappointed.

 

THE BEST OF JORDAN AWARD

1)  The road trip with Dan

2)  Wadi Rum

3)  Petra

4)  the Dead Sea

comments:  Jordan turned out to be a solid destination from top to bottom. We enjoyed everything we did there. But again, there’s a reason Petra is a wonder of the world. It must be visited by anyone who travels to Jordan.

 

THE BEST OF EGYPT

1)  Scuba diving in the Red Sea

2)  The Pyramids at Giza

3)  The Library at Alexandria

4)  Mount Sinai

comments:  Like the first two, there’s a reason people go out of their way to see the Pyramids, and none of them leave disappointed.

 

THE BEST OF SOUTH AFRICA

1)  Noel’s 75th

2)  Coffee Bay

3)  The drive down to the Cape of Good Hope

4)  Seeing old friends and their families and friends

5)  Kruger

comments:  It was nice connecting with people from Korea and Alan’s old friends and family. It’s always nice to know the locals. They give you the best advice about places to stop and visit and afford you the opportunity to do things most tourists miss out on.

 

THE THING WE’RE MOST LIKELY TO DO AGAIN AWARD

1)  Shark diving

2)  See the Pyramids at Giza

3)  Visit Cape Town

4)  Visit North Korea

5)  Go on safari

comments:  Alan, if he had not been in Australia, would have gone on his second safari already. As it is, we all stand at one. We hope, however, to run that number to at least two. Going on safari is terrific. Seeing wild animals is always fun.

 

MVP OF THE TRIP

1)  Dane

2)  Eric

3)  Alan

comments:  Alan disappeared for part of the trip. It’s as simple as that. He got a nice consolation prize, though, as he and his lady will be spending Christmas together in Ireland.

Farewell (For Now)

14 Dec

Our last day was spent in Johannesburg. Eric and Dane fly out today. Alan flies out tomorrow. So, our trip will end as it began, with the group split apart. This time, however, we’re ready for it. It will be nice to get back home. It will be nice to see old friends again and to be with our families for Christmas. We’re sad the trip is coming to an end. We’re sad to be leaving each other’s company for who knows how long. But it’s time.

Eric:  We’ve been traveling for 106 days. Me and Dane at least.

Dane:  Don’t act like you’re not impressed.

Alan:  It will be 109 for me by the time I leave tomorrow.

Eric:  Always trying to one up us.

Dane:  Part of that was spent in Adelaide, though, missing Petra and the Pyramids.

Alan:  I did get a pretty amazing girl.

Eric:  Wow!! What a suck up! You can write that, too. I must say, though, I am happy for Alan and Inyoung. And I’m happy he came back.

Alan:  So am I.

Dane:  So, Alan, what’s your favorite Eric story of the trip?

Eric:  There’s not many good ones.

Alan:  Favorite Eric story? When he drank the finger water.

Dane:  That’s 100% the right answer.

Eric:  Let’s not forget Alan abandoned us and should be the one we are making fun of.

Dane:  Go for it. Favorite Alan story?

Alan:  I didn’t put my foot in my mouth as much as you did.

Eric:  No one does.

Dane:  What about at Noel’s 75th?

Eric:  Oh yeah! When you were asked to say Grace at Noel’s birthday dinner, and you stumbled through it. You looked more nervous than when I talk to women.

Alan:  Now, we have to do Dane stories…

Eric:  Dane is so cool, calm and collected, he rarely does something you can make fun of him for. But, he lost his charm a bit, when he scared away Daisy from Botswana just because she had no shoes. She probably couldn’t afford them.

Dane:  I don’t respect the 47%.

Eric:  Which includes both Dane and myself.

Dane:  Not an ounce of respect.

Alan:  I would be a part of that, too, if I wasn’t Irish.

Dane:  So, it’s sort of the end of an era here. We have all been in Korea/traveling together for the past 2 years and 4 months. It’s been a helluva time.

Eric:  An amazing two year run. Because, yeah, our first trip was together, Hong Kong/Macau, and now, we’ve finished our last trip together.

Alan:  Hopefully not our last trip.

Dane:  When might that trip be?

Alan/Eric:  BRAZIL 2014!!!

Alan:  Or Vegas anytime.

Eric:  Alan’s bachelor party.

Dane:  I’m game. Any final tales of the trip to mention or closing remarks?

Eric:  I’d just like to say thanks to Dane and, even Alan, for everything, for the trouble we got into in Seoul to the drive through South Africa, I’ve enjoyed every second of it!

Alan:  The wolf pack shall be reunited in Brazil. We should tag James Finnie in that statement.

Eric:  Haha… We’re going to need someone to show us around.

Alan:  It really has been an amazing two and a half years. From the orientation class where I asked Dane how the hell does Eric drink like that and still have a smile on his face in class…

Eric:  That’s me, mom.

Alan:  …to being on the soccer team together briefly to the countless barbecues we had together on the weekend, it’s all been good.

Dane:  I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m going to miss you, boys. See you in Brazil or Vegas.

Alan:  Cheers to that.

India Wrap Up

24 Oct

We left India a little over a week ago. It was full of ups and downs, expecteds and unexpecteds, good times and bad. It’s hard to sum up all the things we saw and experienced, but since we’ve had a while to process our experience there, we thought we’d add a few of our final thoughts.

Dane:  The most momentous part of our time in India actually had nothing to do with the country itself. It was Alan leaving.

Eric:  The number one thing I’ll remember was my shock and confusion when he told us he was going to Australia to surprise his girlfriend.

Dane:  Alan leaving completely changed the dynamic of our trip.

Eric:  On the plus side, it forced us to meet more people. Over the last few weeks we’ve met a lot of really cool travelers.

Image

Jealous, Alan? 

Dane:  We both think he’s a bit crazy, but we wish him the best.

Eric:  Certainly. And we’ll think he’s even crazier if he doesn’t rejoin us in South Africa.

Dane:  As for India, I’m going to start with a negative. People were constantly trying to take advantage of us. They would lie to our faces and when we would call them on it, they would act as if we insulted their mother. It wore me down.

Eric:  I didn’t like the people either, but I look at Northern and Southern India as two different worlds. Northern India was the most intense place I’ve ever been and Southern India was very chill.

Dane:  I would agree. We’ve traveled all through Southeast Asia and chaos is familiar to us, but it was on a different level in Northern India.

Eric:  We certainly jumped right into the deep end by starting in Varanasi.

Dane:  I need to qualify that when we say people, we mean people trying to sell us on things, not Indians going about their daily lives. And the sites were amazing.

Eric:  We definitely saw loads of incredible things, highlighted by the Taj Mahal and the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Dane:  And the India/Pakistan border. That whole ceremony was amazing.

Eric:  After going through the hectic North, it was great to go South to the beach. It was way more relaxed.

Dane:  We did very little besides relax on the beach for two weeks.

Eric:  It was incredible not to do anything on a day to day basis. Very relaxing.

Image

The view from the restaurant attached to our hotel.

Dane:  India was definitely worth visiting. I wouldn’t say that it affected me spiritually or changed my perspective of the world like so many travelers claim, but what we saw was definitely worth seeing.

Eric:  Alan found himself.

Image

The moment Alan found himself.

Dane:  I suppose one person changed out of three is a decent batting percentage.

Eric:  I was also glad to have experienced India even with the constant ups and downs.

Eric’s Bday

18 Oct

Eric’s birthdays are often memorable. I’ve been present for three of them now, and each one of them is firmly entrenched into my mind bank forever.

The first one I attended was a booze-fueled romp down the Han River on a sightseeing boat. It wasn’t a booze cruise, but we turned it into one, much to the chagrin of the families with small children onboard. When we returned to land, Eric’s friend, Judy, presented him with nunchucks, allowing Eric to put on a demonstration of his nunchuck skills of which he had none. Frankly, we were all watched the demonstration in the hopes he would smack himself in the nuts. (Humor doesn’t get more highbrow!) He never did. That was the only disappointing part of the evening.

The second one didn’t involve nunchucks or boats, but there was a Wheel of Fun you would spin Jeopardy-style that would land on different pie slices offering suggestions (commands?) of “fun” things to do. (It was provided by, who else, Judy. She’s a terrible influence!) The night devolved into love shots, kisses, and lap dances. Also, a long-term relationship grew out of the carnage of that night in a strangely roundabout way.

The third birthday of his I was present for also delivered in a big way. The crazy and the weird started well before the actual party began. The moment that kicked everything off came when we were approaching a breathalyzer stop on the road from Alleppey to Kochi.

There were six of us in the car, an English girl, Libby, and a South African girl, Kate, we had met on the beach in Kovalam, an English bloke, Peter, who we met on the train platform in Varkala, Eric and I, and our driver, a short Indian man with a mustache that wobbled his head from side-to-side when nervous and who, apparently, liked to throw a few beers back at lunch on Tuesdays.

Our driver was a maniac on the road, passing cars without abandon on blind turns and when being stared down by buses. This didn’t make him any different from the other drivers on the road.

He didn’t seem nervous when he approached the breathalyzer stop. He pulled up, blew into the breathalyzer and let his foot off the brake before the breathalyzer beeped back at him. He stopped, blew again. Beep! The cop told him to pull over and get out of the car.

The rest of us were left in the car running through the possible outcomes of this situation in our minds. Through the windows, we watched our driver fail the breathalyzer again. He returned to the car and pulled a bottle of tea out from under the driver’s seat. He took a swig and swished it around in his mouth. He blew into the breathalyzer again. Beep! The cops talked to him sternly. He shook his head. They berated him again. He acquiesced, shaping his index finger and thumb to signify “a little.” Then, the driver returned to the car. He got in. He turned on the engine.

“What the hell is happening?” one of us said, or perhaps all of us.

Our driver chimed in, “Only one drink and pffft…” He wobbled his head from side-to-side. We had been in the car for too long already for one drink to still be affecting him.

The cops all climbed into their car and had our driver follow them through the streets into the outskirts of Kochi. They allowed our driver, who had just failed his breathalyzer, to drive to the police station.

At first, he tried to pass them, as he had passed so many cars before, but they blocked his maneuver, gesturing with their hands and directing with their eyes for him to follow only. He flashed the police a huge grin. It wasn’t the time for joking, but none of us could hold back from laughing, though for most of us the laughter extended from a place of uncertainty and nervousness. Our driver, however, only seemed to display confidence.

When we arrived at the police station, our diver was escorted inside, leaving us alone in the car. No one informed us of what was going on, so after five minutes or so, Eric went up to the receptionist at the front of the station and asked, “What’s happening?”

The receptionist looked at him with a confused expression. “This is a police station. Nothing is happening.” And that’s about as much information as Eric was able to obtain.

We then contemplated grabbing another cab. We hadn’t paid our fair yet, and we were already an hour and a half into the journey, and our driver was pulled over for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, so we could justify bailing on him. But then he returned.

He climbed in the car and told us he had to pay a 500 Rupee fine. He turned on the car and finished driving us to our destination. After having been busted by the police for drunk driving, he was released from the police station with his car keys and allowed to continue driving.

Incredible India!

Later on, the girls caught a night train on to Goa. Peter, Eric, and I stayed in Kochi. It would be Eric’s birthday at midnight. We had to celebrate.

There was only one bar listed in the guidebook the Fort Cochin section of the city where we were staying. That made planning the night easy but the prospect of a memorable birthday grim.

We never should have worried.

After a few beers at dinner, we made our way to the bar. On the way, we ran into a Scottish couple, Sean and Charlene, in the first month of a year-long trip around the world. They were headed to the bar too. Of course they were, they were Scottish. They asked us to join them. They were celebrating Sean’s birthday today, October 16th. We told them we were also celebrating Eric’s birthday. It was decided then and there that midnight would be the culmination of the night. Eric-Sean 2012 was on! (Say it fast. Eric-Sean. Eric-Sean.)

Out came the beers. Out came the accents. Out came the rats. A rat ran across the floor of the bar. Everyone raised their feet off the ground. Cheers! Keep drinking. The Scots mention they recently bought a flat in downtown Glasgow for 80,000 pounds. Peter, who lives in London, stands up from the table in a huff. “80,000 pounds?! That’s mental!” That would buy him a broom closet in London. Cheers! Keep drinking. The bar manager comes up to tell us the bar closes at 10:30 PM. Sean throws a tip his way, so he’ll keep serving us. Cheers! Keep drinking. The manager regrets his decision and kicks us to the street.

The party moved outside. The remaining bar patrons join our group. We congregated under a street lamp that kept turning on and off with the electrical currents sent in by the power company. Tonight, the breaks in electricity are frequent, going so far as to create a strobe light effect during one or two moments. Perfect.

We start to walk the streets. Midnight is closing in. Where are we going to culminate Eric-Sean 2012? Two locals emerge from the darkness, their timing as impeccable as it is in the movies. They have an open air restaurant where we can hang.

Charlene made an offhand comment about being able to buy anything in India for the right price. She threw some money their way and requested some music. It was a solid move that fell apart when she left the choice of song up to the locals.

Seconds later, Gangnam Style blared over the speakers and the two locals started dancing like PSY in the video. They shout all the words they know (all four of them). Eric has a look on his face that clearly read disappointment. He thought he had left Korea, but it had found a way to catch up with him. But when the locals started to try to get Eric to dance along, he had no choice but to embrace it.

The song ended and Eric and Sean pose for a picture. It was midnight!

The locals, however, not to be left out, run into the frame. They want their picture taken with Eric and Sean too. Altogether, they end up posing for half a dozen shots.

The moment came and it passed. Just after midnight, everyone started exchanging Facebook info. It was time to retire for the night. Just after midnight might seem like an early night for a birthday, but when you’ve been involved in a drunk driving incident, closed down a bar, and heard Gangnam Style, there’s not many more places your night can go but down. It’s generally best to get out while you’re still ahead.

Besides, as the clock struck twelve and the 17th turned to the 18th, Eric became 26. He is getting old. And midnight is plenty late when such fine memories had already been made.

Little Moments in Varkala

13 Oct

We’ve been on the beach in Varkala, India for the last several days and haven’t felt like writing anything. Nothing has really happened either. It’s the little moments, though, that often find a way to influence the greater part of something. Perhaps we have even experienced one or more of those little moments in the last few days. It’s hard to know. That’s what makes them special; you don’t realize how long-lasting they are until later. We’re going to go ahead, however, and list some candidates for those little moment that might stick with us. Later, we’ll realize which ones were actually important.

1)  The beach wasn’t as expansive as it was supposed to be or rather as it was advertised to be or rather as it will be in a month’s time.

2)  There were a few small beaches, that acted as nearly private beaches, if you could get to them along the cliffs.

3)  The waves didn’t act like normal waves. They crashed on top of us as if they were trying to break us.

4)  The first sunset we saw was cloudless. The sun dipped behind the water with a full on green flash.

5)  Every sunset became a must. None of them were as terrific as the first.

6)  Eric and I were on the beach watching a sunset on the second night. A group of Indian men approached us to begin a conversation. One of them looked Eric in the eyes in that serene moment and asked Eric a question he’s only heard from a girlfriend, “What are you thinking about right now?”

7)  Boats arrive in the late afternoon with their daily catches. An impromptu market immediately starts, and the fish are sold.

8)  Indians aren’t allowed to swim. White skinned people are. (insert something about racial discrimination)

9)  A lifeguard asserting his authority to an absurd degree called Alan out of the water before he was even close to reaching the boundary line marked by red flags. Alan, like the nice boy he is, listened to the lifeguard and began walking back into the middle of the swimming area, away from the red flags, in waist deep water. The lifeguard then went nuts with his whistle and waving his finger at Alan and yelling at him. Alan couldn’t hear him, so he yelled back, “What?” The lifeguard demanded he come over to him, told Alan to not yell at him, and said that Alan shouldn’t walk in waist deep water because it is easier to walk on land, declaring he is a lifeguard; he should know.

10)  If you buy lounge chairs at the beach for the day, know the day ends at 4:00 PM.

11)  Our neighbor meditating on the porch the first night we returned from dinner.

12)  Our neighbor not speaking to us.

13)  Our neighbor high kicking the air at night … because he must know that’s a weird thing to do.

14)  The old man that walked around with a see-through cloth wrapped around his waist. (It was very see-through.)

15)  The old man with the see-through cloth smoking weed on his porch.

16)  The old man with the see-through cloth being a super-talented and successful Dutch artist.

17)  The yoga at sunset with all white participants and no Indians. The Indians didn’t know what the hell was going on.

18)  The waiter at a restaurant offering to sell us 10 grams of weed for the equivalent of 10 dollars.

19)  The old man with the see-through cloth asking me if I’m a computer hacker.

20)  The manager at the restaurant who sat in the back and listened to 50 Cent’s greatest hits on a constant loop.

21)  The French guy surfing on lounge chairs and fighting the air for an entire day.

22)  Alan telling us that he’s flying to Australia and may never see us again.

And that was Varkala.

Sunset at the India/Pakistan Border

2 Oct

A few days ago, we hopped in a cab that drove us 30 kilometers west of Amritsar to the India/Pakistan border. These two countries are not at war, so we did not expect the tense atmosphere of the DMZ between North and South Korea, but their relationship is, well, strained.

Whatever we expected in our minds, however, was very, very, very far from the reality that greeted us. There was music, there was dancing, there were hype men! None of us had ever seen anything like it.

 

Eric:  It was like we were at a high school pep rally.

Dane:  Only there wasn’t a car to hit with a sledgehammer.

Alan:  I don’t know how to describe it.

Eric:  It was really interesting because it was a female-dominated ceremony. The women danced. The women carried the flags to the gate separating the countries.

Dane:  But most of the soldiers were men. There were only two women soldiers. They started the high stepping then stood on the side for the rest of it.

Eric:  When they did their kicks, they almost hit themselves in the face.

Alan:  The hype man started it all, though.

Dane:  I felt like we were at a Snoop Dogg concert only with less rapping and references to marijuana and sex.

Alan:  The hype men got the crowd going. He was always shouting, starting chants, and pointing at the Pakistan side.

Eric:  I was amazed at the crowd. Where we were sitting was an amphitheater, and it was full. There were loads of people that couldn’t get seats. It’s hard to believe this ceremony happens everyday. But my favorite part was the huge picture of Ghandi over one of the gates with two snipers positioned on either side of his image. It seemed ironic.

Alan:  I thought the best part was the random eruption of Bollywood dances. No men allowed.

Dane:  My favorite part was the hats.

Alan:  The music did become a pissing-contest between the two countries, though.

Eric:  India had huge speakers facing Pakistan and blasting their music.

Dane:  Pakistan had the same thing toward India.

Eric:  But their speakers weren’t as big.

Alan:  Pakistan, however, had far fewer people. Of course, that correlates to their population sizes.

Dane:  We should say that this ceremony is for the lowering of the flags at sunset.

Alan:  And on the Pakistan side, all the women were on the left. All the men were on the right. They were separated, which was not the case for India.

Dane:  It was like a giant party.

Alan:  As sunset approached, the soldiers began marching toward the gate, then nearly high-kicking themselves in the face, then saluting each other.

Eric:  The whole ceremony was remarkably well coordinated on both sides. The Indian soldiers and the Pakistan soldiers all marched toward the gate at the same time, and they even shook hands when they opened the gate at the border.

Dane:  They also managed not to kick each other in the face at that point.

Alan:  And when they lowered the flags, they were lowered at the exact same rate.

Dane:  The whole thing was fantastic, well worth the short journey outside Amritsar. I’ll never forget it.

Alan:  It’s hard to explain really. Hopefully our pictures can do it justice. Our words certainly can’t.

Eric:  There was shouting. There was music. There was kicking. Hardly what you’d expect at a border between two countries that have a dicey relationship.

Dane:  Well, maybe the kicking.

(We’d add a video, but WordPress won’t allow us to upload any videos unless we pay them money. We refuse to do that. Perhaps we’ll try to upload a video to Facebook soon, but the internet everywhere we’ve been so far isn’t good enough to do so in a timely manner. So, just pictures for now.)

A Quick Update

28 Sep

In the last few days, we saw the Taj Mahal from at least three different angles:

It was incredible how the building completely dominated the whole area.  It was beautiful. Nothing more to say.

We received love advise from one of our tuk-tuk drivers:

“Bob Marley said, ‘No woman, no cry’, but in India, no woman means ‘No chapati, no chai’.”

We saw the Amber fort at Jaiprur:

Alan referred to himself as an “Americ–“

We spent sixteen hours on a train, taking it overnight from Jaipur to Amritsar:

It should have only taken thirteen and a half, but trains and running on time are phrases vehemently opposed to each other within the borders of India.

Also, at one point, Dane’s bed was used by food vendors to sell their goods. Dane was in the bed at the time.

We saw the border between India and Pakistan:

There were hype men at the border, pumping up the crowds watching the flag lowering ceremony!

And we saw The Golden Temple at Amritsar in the daytime and the night:

 

Tomorrow, we’re off to Delhi for a few days. More posts to come.