Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world; and it looks like it. It is situated on the holy Ganges river and one of the "things" to do there is take a sunrise boat ride on that holy river. It's quite a beautiful place in hindsight, but i must admit; i really did not like it when i was there. EVERYONE wants to take you out on their boat, the beggars are relentless, and the overall vibe i got from the place was less than positive; BUT it looks pretty, and that's all that really matters.
Trains are also the most economic and (relatively) comfortable way to travel around the country. A hundred dollar air flight probally would cost about 7 bucks on the train. Basically you have a bunkbed type thing that you sleep on at night and then you just sit there and watch India go by in the afternoon. It's kinda a fun way to travel however after 22 hours it can get a bit tedious. Trains are also the best crossection of Indian society. Take a short train ride anywhere in this country and you will see all the good the bad and the ugly. The heartwarming families traveling, the heartbreaking beggars and crippled people, and maybe even the heart shocking transsexuals. Yeah that's right, men in saris, it's one of the scariest things I've seen over here. They enter the room with one loud hand clap, and then you turn around and see a "man" in women's clothing. Scarred the hell out of me the first time. I am not fully aware of their role in society, but i think if you give them money it's supposed to bring you good luck. Anyway, i don't have any photos of them. The other great thing about the train is every station you pull into you can get some of the best local street food.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
The main program that i arrived for was the cultural events. Ya know ladies dancing with pots of fire on their heads, men putting burning coals in their mouths and spitting out fire balls; that kinda stuff; oh right and a bunch of music and dance. Since i was a white guy with a large camera i got an all access pass; it was really cool.
So the camel festival moved about 40 km outside the city to a desert village. I missed the day activities because i had errands to run, but i made it out there for the night stuff; and i am very glad i did. I missed the last free bus out, so i had to hire an autorickshaw to take me out there. That was a long and bumpy ride in a very uncomfortable vehicle, but we made it. We parked the rickshaw and began walking in the desert. I really had no idea of what was going on or where we were going but i trusted that the hoards of Indians walking over a large sand dune must been the way to go. The sight that greeted me atop that dune was quite startling; i could have been a military base, or a desert rave of some sort, or just something out of Mad Max; it was pretty awesome.
This was a beauty contest of sorts. It was hilarious. The men were very serious, but in a totally tongue in cheek kinda way (i think). The women were quite serious and had to even give a little speech thing, which of course i could not understand. I have no idea what the parameters for winning this contest were, but it was a blast to watch. The three kids were were completely adorable in their little Rajastani outfits.