Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bharat = sab khuch milega

My 4th month in India has stared and yet I didn't share a line with you. I am very sorry. As much as I love sharing, this time it has been a bit more challenging.
As you know, I started in Mumbai, where a friend was happy to host me for a week and nicely, mildly introduced me to local customs. I sat one course nearby and visited Igatpuri by my self by local train. It was very nice and exciting, ladies couches are good fun and easy way to get around. Then as planned I met my friend Jan on a platform 4 at central station of a train from Jaipur which brought him to Mumbai - on time!! So we found each other without a mobile phone like in old times. Since then we travel together. And it is a big phew for me. India alone is OK, possible and probably safe as I met other single ladies here and they were just fine. BUT, with a man by side, it becomes a very different experience. For example, I am spared some of the stares, I am spared some very uncomfortable sounds from men when I pass by, I am not talked to most of the time (!) and more little details. One more: men when actually talking to me feel more at ease then when I was alone. It's all about very tiny feelings and when perceptive, one starts understanding this society a little bit, step by step. Indian clothes is just a must, I felt almost naked in a skirt which was covering knees and that was in Mumbai which is very modern compare to other parts.
So why is it so challenging to keep my blog updated here? Well, first of all, WiFi is not available at every corner as I was used to it in SEA, it's hard to find it and it's often paid. Then I didn't really know what to say at first because I didn't really knew much and India is so overwhelming! That is a big reason, it's just all over you. It's such a big country with so many different beliefs, ideas, it works very differently from other societies and is so divers, that it is just very difficult to comprehend it and do it a good justice. Well, I braved up now and I am trying my best to transfer some of my experience to you, but I am sure it will not be perfect. Another reason for writing less is also the fact, that I am not alone anymore and I am actually already sharing my experience here and that is very enjoyable too.
So yes, I confirm, a HUGE country with huge bicycles, huge motorcycles, huge trucks, long trains, many and many train tracks, millions of people, number of ethnicities, casts, levels of living, stray dogs, cows, horses, no waist management, and many customs from 19th century. All those cliches are true... I love it, it is fascinating. Indians would be the world number one if there was a serious staring competition. That is a bit annoying part... But people are always ready to smile, help, try to help or at least try that one word they know in English. Almost any stranger will ask "your country?" And if they speak English, many more nosy questions will follow. But they can also be cute and childish, honest, readable.
Any dealings here take so much more time then back home! Sometimes 10 times more, like sending a parcel or buying a ticket or finding one particular thing which you need to buy. So you do not even know how and days are gone with simple tasks.

So far I met some Indian girls and ladies on Vipassana courses and each encounter was a very interesting story on its own and another small sneak peak to this extremely complicated society. I am not sure I would like to be born in India as a woman. It is very hard for me to understand the whole thing how women are treated here. The more I thought about it and spoke to people about it, I figured out that it is not so much a fault of male side. Yes, they have very dirty minds, I can see and feel it, they do molest and abuse, but the root might be somewhere else. The main word in a family here belongs to the mother. That's it. And family is everything in India. So the mother (and once married, the mother in law) will say how to bring kids up, what you can and cannot wear and will treat her kids (most of the time, this is just an example and is not true for everyone of course) according to their sex. So the boys are pampered and spoiled and the girls are made to kind of slave for their brothers. So a boy is of more value than a girl from day one. One shocking thing which is telling this clearly is that Indian states has passed a law forbidding doctors and anyone else to tell a sex of unborn child or foetus. It is against the law to tell the parents want are they expecting. (You can imagine what was happening before and why there is less girls then boys now.) So, back to that family situation, boys will naturally grow daring, confident and cocky and their sisters will quickly learn how to get around those terrible family arrangements by developing many tricks and ways around. Mothers in law can be very very challenging. So imagine, it is completely normal to be married in an arranged marriage here and dowry is very important and there are tight rules to the first meeting and all is very much tight up by customs and do's and don's. Alright, let's say you like the guy, he likes you, OK, you get married and you think that if you work on this relationship and possibly even fall in love with each other, you have won and this so very non liberal system was outsmarted. Well, actually no, you didn't because you are not marrying only your husband, you are marrying his whole family as well, that is where you belong from now on and have no rights in your previous home. Yes, kind of sold to a new place. And who rules that place? Yep, mother in law. Now, you might be lucky again and get in to an nice mature and understanding family, where everyone is balanced and self confident and just happy with themselves and others. OK, that already sounds like a fairytale. The reality is, that this very mother in law will be jealous of you as you now have her precious and spoiled, pampered son. She is not the only woman in the family anymore and she is also aging and that is painful, you are young and beautiful, so envy will come to visit and so on, it can be countless things and there are countless strategies how to make your life a hell. And this is just one off millions of possible situations in which you can end up. I am trying to say that it's not just machism in India, it's the whole society and it is very complicatedly interlocked. Women are usually the keepers of traditions, bitterness is passed down to young generations and I just do not see how this can change within this century.
I mean, sure, western women can get them selves in trouble if they choose a wrong husband and so on, but at least it's their free decision and free will and they are not a subject, but feel like a self sufficient beings. I know that can be just an illusion too, but from my European perspective it is a bit better option.
Oh dear, you see such a long post and we didn't even leave Maharashtra state yet! :-)
OK, let's move on. After Christmas in Igatpuri, we hopped into a sleeper express to the north and that is Varanasi (around 28 hours with delay). From there we took a rickshaw to Sarnath as Jan's plan was to do the Dhamma Yatra = Buddhist pilgrimage and Sarnath is one of the important places from Buddha's life. It was cold and covered in fog for 3 days,...very cold. Many of the stupas were hardly visible. And there is no indoor heating in India, anywhere!
Varanasi was a tiny bit warmer and had some nice food and shopping opportunities to offer as well as nice walks along the river. Another train took us to Gaya and another rickshaw to Dhamma Bodhi, a meditation center just outside Bodghaya. We sat a 10 day course there which started on the first day of this year. Then we took a 5 day long break in a nice guesthouse in Bodghaya and returned to the center to give service ( volunteer) for another 10 days. Bodghaya is very interesting, it is the place where Gothama the Buddha got enlightened. So a very important place for all Buddhist communities and countries. High number of temples was built here and very high number of monks and nuns are on their pilgrimage or staying in their respective monasteries. Many Nepali's pilgrims and merchants are coming here as well. It was very enjoyable time, we had some nice food, did some shopping and most of all met Dinu, Jan's Facebook friend, who was our guide for couple of days. Dinu took us to nearby cave where Buddha was practicing austerity before deciding on taking the middle path. It was a sunny day, we hired Indian bicycles, crossed (waded) the river and got completely taken by the countryside. It was fun.
Once we finished our service we took a bus to Rajgir and did some sightseeing, meditating, eating,... Another very packed train to muddy Patna just for a transfer for another train to noisy Gorakhpur for a night and then one shared jeep to Kushinagar.  Did you know than one jeep without doors can fit in 18 people? Anyway, we stayed in temple's accommodation in Rajgir and Kushinagar, it is quite nice for a change. Few nights in Kushinagar helped me get over a flu and then we went on again, bus back to Gorakhpur and to Gonda by train and then another two shared jeeps to Sravasti, where we are just now.
 We have been moving around Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states in last two months and to be true, it's getting more and more poor and basic, English speaking people are very rare here and so are many of the modern life technologies and comforts. It is interesting, new, natural, but only a little comfortable.

So I am very much looking forward to the next destination - Rishikesh! It should be developed and warm. Rishikesh is a famous place for yoga courses and we hope to move our practice forward there as well. Then we meet another friend, Sebastian in Amritsar. Both, Jan and Seb are flying home at the beginning of March from Delhi, so I will wave them good bye and enjoy the Holi festival there. :-)
I will spend another 3 weeks here alone so I hope you will here from me again before I pack all the presents, leave the worn out clothes behind and fly home for good.

What to add, India is showing the impermanence of our world like under a magnifying glass. Everything rots and decays extremely fast, the dirtiness and difficulty to clean, the number of people, the wild life,... and one feels literally like a drop in the ocean. It is a good reminder and it surely makes one thinking and rethinking and reevaluating many aspects of life. I guess that's why people like this country.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Monday, November 10, 2014

My debt to tell you more about Myanmar

I am sorry, life came in the way of writing more here on my blog. Especially very poor internet connection in Myanmar, too much to see there and too many nice people to talk to! So yes, it was fun. I loved it. The atmosphere in this country is peaceful.  And I loved it - again. Greed didn't come in the way between visitors and locals yet. The people are lovely honest creatures with amazing smiles on their faces, ready to greet you and even help.
Travel in Myanmar is slow so even 18 days is very little time. To do this country proper justice, I would like to take the full 28 days of visa allowance, hopefully next time. Buses and trains are slow and not in very convenient times. Night buses usually take a little less time then they say (1-4 hours difference) and they leave early so you will mostly arrive too early - 3 or 4 am. And that is not very nice as bus terminals are mostly out of town and you need to get out and ready in the middle of the sleep cycle. And the whole day will and up tiring. OK, that is how it is, if you have more money, you can always fly. I did't and I kept a low budget, which is a challenge there, but it is doable. If you need more details about budgeting, let me know.

Bagan - on the top of a pagoda

I started in Dawei, then took a very advantageous bus to Mawlamyine, explored the world largest reclining Buddha and the river side and moved on to Kyaikto to see the Golden rock - boulder balancing on a rock which became very golden and a pilgrims sacred place. I have enjoyed this experience very much. After that I took an afternoon bus to Bago and cycled around the most important pagodas and temples for a day and took a night bus to Inle lake. There I stayed in lovely new place called Graceful Inn. I can recommend it. Inle is a beautiful place, nature is everywhere and is very pure. The boat trip is a must and there is surely much more to do.
Mandalay was charming! I met two fellow-countrymen and a monk. Both encounters were very refreshing and interesting. Thank you! Again, the touristy places are not very touristy and are worth a visit. Bicycles are a good choice to go around here. Cruise ship trip to Bagan was worth the money, I mean it was very expensive, but the cheep boat goes only twice a week and who can make the timing right? This was very refreshing, as it meant clean and hassle free traveling. Unfortunately, most of the passengers were upper class tourists and that caused me a bit of a shock as I did't meet those people for a while. Anyway... Bagan is unmissable, I made just too many pictures there, I couldn't help it.
 My last night bus took me to the former capital - Yangon, where I found a nice place to stay after some searching - Beautyland hotel ll. Very nice staff and good spot in the down town area. Yangon on Sunday feels like a village. Sacred places are nice and busy. Bicycles and motorbikes are band here, so unless you bring your own bicycle, you cannot cycle around. Walking is OK as distances are not great and taxis are everywhere.

Let me just say that this is for sure my favorite country and I will come back soon (hopefully).

Here are my pictures, they might say a bit more then my post this time...

At the moment, I am in Mumbai, enjoying Indian air. It is different, you know. So far so good. I will come back here at the end of the month or maybe even year, we will see. Write a comment, leave a note :). take care!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Yes, I am here :-) !
I took the advice from and crossed the border at the closest point from Bangkok, the Phu the Ron cross 2 hours away from Kanchanaburi. I am still on the way and I am already happy with the decision. I have not met any oteher toursts the whole way from Bangkok, only few Thai people at the border who were kind enough to give me lift to the other border. This cross is in the jungle, it's basic and scenic. It is my first time when I've seen working elephants, working in the forest, not for tourists. It's only 3 of us in a minivan and the road is OK. Dawei is the place where I will spend few days.
I have crossed few borders lately and it always amazes me how big differences can be spotted just behind the line! Each country has different kind of cows, different huts, a bit different vegetation and so on, but some things are same even thousands kilometres away! Like long boats on the river or type of house.
Anyway, all went well, I am in bed after sweet hot shower, I have WiFi and drinking water and can just go to sleep. :-)

Day two
I think I am the only tourist in this town. Everybody smiles at me! And there is something gentle in the air here. ATM works and people speak basic English. Beach tomorrow!

The immigration office

Monday, October 13, 2014

Practicalities about on land travel Vietnam - Cambodia - Bangkok

Hello my readers!

As I have found it a little challenging to find information about reliable bus connections in this area, so I want to share what I have done.
This whole area is covered by company called Mekong express which was also recommended to me, but as I travel on tight budget, I was looking for cheeper options.
I have found a nice bus from Ho Chi Minh for half price! :-)
Company called Kumho Samco Buslines connects Ho Chi Minh and Phnom Penh and runs daily buses at 7am, 8am, 9:30am, 11am, 13pm, 15pm. Here is their card with all other details. In Phnom Penh, they can drop you off if your address is on the way to their office, otherwise you get off at the office. It is not far from center at all. If you feel like tuk-tuk, never pay more than 5$ (more likely just 3$) and for motorbike taxi just 1$ is a good price, unless you cross the whole town.

Later on I was looking for a direct connection from Phnom Penh to Bangkok and again, I found many complicated ways how to do do this journey, but nothing direct. But I asure you, it's easy and OK, if you don't mind 13 hours on a bus. I know it's a lot, but do you want to pay the high fee for leaving Cambodia by air?So Capitol is the answer:
Nice and reliable company, can book you a seat over a phone as well. Bus leaves once a day at 6:30 am from the company office. It costs 18 USD, so don't pay at agents, go strait to street 182 and buy the ticket there. We took the southern road (not through Siem Reap). The road is OK there and it took 8 hours to the border (as bus delivers things and drops people off). At the boarder, wait for another employee of the company to come aboard, he speaks English, gives you another ticket for the driver on Thai side and shows you the way to immigration. ;-) Yes, easy right?
Now once you are on Thai side, hold your new ticket visibly and people will point you out to he right minivan (in front of 7eleven) once all customers cross and sit, bus is ready to go. It takes another 4 hours to Bangkok (with one stop). Drop of is at Khaosan road or Victory monument (sky train). Or just speak to the driver at the break time, when our driver was visibly more relaxed and talkative.
Wish you a safe journey!!!

Friday, October 3, 2014


It has been a while since I crossed the border from Vietnam to Cambodia. I did it by bus and all went smooth. I chose Phnom Penh as a place for getting my Indian visa as I googled it should be nice and easy here, but, there is always a but when getting visa. Apparently here they don't issue visa earlier then 2 weeks before your journey, so they told me to come back later. And also the procedure takes only few days, not two weeks like in EU. I was highly disappointed, packed and went to Siem Reap to do some volunteering teaching English in a small village. This was definitely a good decision and great experience. I never did this before and I have to say it's not so difficult. Kids are eager to learn and wild. The school is very basic and chickens often take over the classrooms during breaks. It's very organic and follows the pace of the village. I stayed for 10 days and visited some of the Angkor temples at weekend. (Did you know that Angkor is run by Vietnamese and all the profit goes to Vietnam?)
I had bad diarrhoea followed by a flu while there, it had spoiled the experience a bit. I was tired and at the end loosing my voice, so it was good that more volunteers arrived and we could split the day. How did I find it? On There are many schools and organisations listed, just choose the one for you. I was lucky to meet some great people there.
Cambodia is very poor and people live simply. I thing that it's the highest number of tuk-tuk and motorbike drivers per head here. And I have not seen expensive motorbikes elsewhere but here, which is a bit bizarre. Dukes are especially popular. It is definitely a land of smiles, grieve, eating, flat landscape, lots of water and pretty people. Phnom Penh as any capital is a place of many possibilities, dirt and traffic. It has large French community and some fine bars, restaurants and one Costa coffee shop. Everyone warns tourists to be very careful with handbags as lots of bag snatching apparently happens here. Otherwise it feels safe during daylight. Moto ride through town and day is just one dollar.. tuk-tuk ride should not be more then 5$. Me and my friend Mel went to a cinema last night to watch The killing fields and that was a nice experience. Good movie, it was only us there so we could talk and enjoy it well.
There is lots of beggars here as well and many of them are children, or children selling things at night on streets, sad picture, but not much we can do, apart from not buying and not giving them money and hope this businesses will disaapear. Cambodia is also a land of pretty ladies and lots of prostitution can be noted. High risk of HIV is present. And Lady boys!! Yes it's somehow normal social thing and very popular.

On the other hand, people in the countryside are still growing their own rice, cook on fire, sleep in stilt houses and rely on natural resources. Cambodians eat almost everthing, frogs, snakes, crickets, you name it. Homes are simple and traditional. Rubbish is a huge issue, there is no education about it, so it's either everywhere, or burnt.

I am currently waiting for my Indian visa to be issued, so stuck in Phnom Penh, but with very nice couch surfers. As this visa process takes so long, mainly due to holidays, I will have to change my plan, skip Laos and go to Thailand instead. I still hope that I can visit Myanmar for 2 weeks. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Vietnam's second post

About Vietnam again. Yes, it diserves it.
This country is wide, and crazy. Many things are possible. Country of scooters and motorbikes, mountains, beaches, poverty, luxury, resorts. Small tribes and villages with unique languages and customs. Cowboys who want to make money on you. People who don't mind lying about obvious things. But many very honest people. Communisms breaths strongly in the north, I had many childhood flashbacks there. Buildings which are never finished, propaganda, don't care attitude, arrogance and ignorance is in huge contrast with people who has everything but almost nothing and are happy to share that all with you, smile and be happy to see you. This is a country where families burry their dead in the middle of their land to protect it from buyers. I don't want to forget the beautiful wood work I can see everywhere, new and old, I love it. Skills are visible, good craft. Eye infection. Dust. Cheap hotels which are just about clean. Crazy night buses. Breaking waves on beach in Hoi An. Ice cream three time more expensive then cigarettes. Cheap bear. Bad roads. Very wide menus but each meal served in different restaurant. Strong conservative outlooks on family and partnership. Pressure on girls to get merried and have kids. School is not for free. I don't know anymore, come and see for your self :-) . But I like the fading colours on walls and houses. It's cute.

Pictures from Hoa and Hoi An.

Ho Chi Minh city pictures