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Agra to Varanasi: My Final Days in India…

My time in India was soon coming to an end; I had 10 days left in what I believe to be an amazing country. However, I realised, after visiting a friend in Dehradun, that I would have to skip one or two places; my plan was to spend a few days in New Delhi, then head to Agra before reaching Varanasi, which would be my final destination. I soon realised that I’d much rather spend a few extra days in Agra and Varanasi than get tied down in the chaotic city sprawl of New Delhi. So, I left Dehradun (which is near Rishikesh) and made my way to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal. Now, if you are heading to Agra (if you’re in the north of India I presume you will at some point), then try and stay … Read more…

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Turn off your mind, relax, float down stream…

Rishikesh: home of the yoga bums, pseudo-hippies, various drugs (a few of which I may or may not have sampled), and The Maharishi Mahesh (Beatles) Ashram. Anyone who follows my blog will know that I won’t have come to Rishikesh for the yoga, and definitely not to hang around with the tie-dye crew, but to see a place famed for the way it changed, or at least altered, the way that the Beatles wrote songs and helped change the way eastern music was seen across the world (though admittedly it was more George Harrison who did this). Of course, if you’re into yoga then Rishikesh is the place to go; I’d say two out of three guesthouses offer some sort of yoga training or a at least classes to take part in. There are a few places here that have … Read more…

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McLeod Ganj: Home of the Tibetan Government in Exile

Dharamsala or, more specifically, McLeod Ganj, was somewhere I’d wanted to go from as far back as being in the south of India. Though not a Buddhist (or of any religion at all for that matter), the lure of the Himalayan foothills, the chance to meet Tibetan refugees, plus the fact that it’s the home of the Dalai Lama, made the area very, very appealing. After a tiring 8hr bus journey, I was greeted by a man waving a business card for his guesthouse so, after checking his prices, I decided to follow him for what he described as a 5 minute walk. What I saw was completely different to what I expected of McLeod Ganj; there were bright neon lights covering the streets, restaurants of all cuisines packed with customers, and people stumbling out of rooftop bars: had I … Read more…

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The Dark City of Amritsar

Amritsar, the north western state of India is, for lack of a better word, shocking. I left Jaisalmer feeling a little shitty for obvious reasons and possible even a little down; I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Rajasthan and was sad to leave but, as always, I had to press on. My first impression of the Sikh pilgrimage city (after a hellish bus journey) wasn’t the best; dusty, s**t covered roads being rolled over by rickshaws, buses, cyclists and, of course, cows (yes, more cows). My guesthouse, and many others in the area, had a lovely view of a flyover and was without a doubt the most depressing guesthouse I’ve been in so far (and I’ve been in some really bad ones). There was nothing wrong with the place itself; everyone was friendly, the food good and the price OK … Read more…

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Jaisalmer: Sun, Sand, and Sh*t…

Jaisalmer, the golden city of Rajasthan, and sadly my last stop in this great state, was somewhere I’d heard about many times from fellow travellers; the main attractions being the fort (yes, another one) and desert safaris. I left Jodhpur both excited and a little down; I knew that I’d have a good time in Jaisalmer, but I also knew it was my exit from Rajasthan which would then lead into my last few weeks in the sub continent. In fact, even while writing this (which, as you know, is around 3 weeks behind) I feel a little depressed at the fact that I’ll be leaving the country very soon; but lets not focus on that for now. Rajasthan, in or out, is basically situated within the Thar Desert, but Jaisalmer is where the actual desert starts. The city/town itself … Read more…

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The Brutality of Jodhpur

There was only one reason I decided to go to Jodhpur, and that was to see the Mehrangarh fort. One thing that I’ve noticed about Rajasthan and the north so far is that, unlike the south which is filled with temples, there is an abundance of forts here. The northern states, especially Rajasthan, are definitely more militarized than the southern ones, possibly due to there being more borders and a greater risk of foreign attack in the past; this creates a very strong and perhaps safer atmosphere than the south. The fort, visible from many miles away, is a towering authority over the city; its many ages of architectural styles clambering on top of each other out of a solid foundation of rock is a awe-inspiring sight. Out of the countless temples, palaces, and other forts I’ve seen throughout the … Read more…

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Pushkar to Udaipur: Humble Town to Majestic City

I found in Jaipur something that I’d not had for what felt like a long time: people that I actually liked to socialise with. I’ve met plenty of people in India, some of whom I’ve had a connection with, some I definitely haven’t, but I think the last time I genuinely met some fun people was back in Munnar (even if we did part on bad terms). After many days of laughter with Americans, Canadians, Israelis and the odd Brit, I needed somewhere to relax on my own. Anyone who knows me will be aware that I’m very choosy about who I socialise with, so wanting to stay in Rajasthan limited my options somewhat; I could either head south to Udaipur or west to Jodhpur and, after consulting a book or two and asking a few people back in the … Read more…

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Jaipur: The Pink City of Rajasthan

Now well into my 3rd month in India, I knew that I needed to get up to Rajasthan as quickly as possible; I realised that I didn’t have time to visit the north east regions of Darjeeling or Kashmir but this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; it meant that I had more time to visit the north west regions. After leaving Auroville (which I’ll write about in a separate post) I made my way to Chennai. Now, the original information I’d been given led me to believe that I’d have to catch a train from Chennai to Hyderabad, then from there to Jaipur, which would be my first stop in Rajasthan. However, after a little more digging I found that I could catch a single, direct train from Chennai to Jaipur if I was willing to wait a couple of … Read more…

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The French Riviera of the East

My time in Kanyakumari was an unexpected, yet personal, experience. So, me being me, I needed to get back into some sort of normality. Fortunately, heading north east towards Pondicherry, or Pondy as the locals call it, was something to look forward to. Before I arrived in Pondy, I spent a night in Madurai, the ‘city of amber’. This, however, was somewhat disappointing; Madurai is famous for the Meenakshmi Amman temple which, though impressive, doesn’t hide the fact that Madurai is just a large, over crowded city. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my short time in the city, but I didn’t really get a feel for the place other than through aesthetics, and with it being expensive (as cities naturally are) I was glad I only stayed one night before moving to the ‘french riviera of the east’. This, … Read more…

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Kanyakumari: The Southern Tip of India

Leaving the lush greenery of Mid Kerala was hard to do but, having seen and done what I wanted to, I decided to move on further south. My plan originally was to end up in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) before cutting across the midlands towards Madurai. However, after a few days in the clifftop beach town of Varkala (where I spent my time mostly eating and drinking, and meeting some great people) I decided it’d be a shame if I didn’t actually reach the very south of India at its most southern tip. So, after a quick stop in Trivandrum I headed to a place called Kanyakumari (formerly Cape Comorin) which I was told by some locals was just a place to go for the sake of being at the bottom of India; though I found that this simply isn’t true. I … Read more…

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