Thursday, February 11, 2010

Indore, India

I don't have a spot to hook up my laptop but it's been a while since I made a post. And I won't have a chance to hook up my laptop for a while probably. So I might as well go ahead and post sans photos.

Last time I posted I was in Vang Vieng, Laos. Laos is communist by the way in case you didn't know. When the US lost the "Vietnam" war Laos became communist too. They didn't have the same brutal stuff going on as the Khmer Rouge was up to a little further south but some of the hill tribes were badly persecuted. Especially the Hmong who fought on the side of the US. The communist party also meddled with the monastic order, even changing the texts.

Anyways I escaped the drug den of Vang Vieng where the opium, meth, weed, mushrooms and of course Beerlao flow freely. Just joking it's not really a drug den but there are rather a lot of intoxicated tourists around and I learned the term "alcoholiday". I took the bus to Vientiane which is the capital. From my departure from Vang Vieng until landing in Indore I was on the move almost all the time, rushing around from one thing to the next. Not really my idea of a good time but I wanted to make it to the organic farming conference in Indore. I crashed in Vientiane before taking the bus across the border into Thailand.

Immediately after getting into Thailand I got to share a tuk tuk (three wheeled taxi) with two monks to the train station! The train station website apparently does not work with Safari because I sat around for about two hours while the officials fiddled about in confusion about my online ticket. I ended up buying another one just with cash. The overnight train with groovy folding out beds was a nice way to get to Bangkok.

In Bangkok I was lucky enough to wander across Siam Classic guest house a short walk from the railway station. It was a bit expensive at 450 Baht per night (~$15) but very nice. I chilled out, walked around Chinatown for a bit. Saw a huge 5.5 ton gold Buddha. Things were going well. I spent the night in Siam Classic and the next day got up in time to see the monks collecting alms. It's quite interesting to watch. Each day the monks go out and collect alms from people. It's how they have food to eat. Each monk has a bowl. As they walk through the street the come across people who offer them food. People wait with their bags on the sidewalk, looking to catch a monk. Or the food vendors set up little plates of food ready to go for them. They are carefully packaged in single serving sizes, which generates an enormous amount of garbage. Donations include little bottles of water. I think people also put out food for the spirits in much smaller portions. When the monk and the food meet at the same point in time and space the monk opens his bowl and the donor places the food into his bowl one item at a time. Then they kneel down, put their hands together and thank/show respect to the monk. The monk smiles at them, maybe gives them a blessing. The whole thing is a very happy process, people wanting to give their food and the monks smiling and happy to recieve it.

In the afternoon I visited a Buddhist univerisity. I was hoping for a bookstore but there wasn't one. It was lovely to sit in front of the Buddha though. My plane was leaving at 6pm and I though I had time...

I had a hard time getting to the Buddha because I wasn't very good with the public transit system. Then there was heavy traffic on my way back to the hostel. I had to get out of a taxi and go find another one we were so stuck. It sucks to sit in traffic and watch the meter run. Then the taxi driver didn't know where the train station was (wtf?). Eventually I nabbed a tuktuk and someone nearby helped him to know where I wanted to go. I grabbed my bags and hopped on the subway. Then found out the train to the airport, although shown on the map isn't built yet :-(. I hailed a taxi, with time running out...

The airport is really freakin far away. It took about an hour to drive there. I ended up getting there in time though, with 20 minutes before the check in gate closed. Whew. But, as I like to say it's never over until it's over. I.e. you're not in Delhi until you step out of the airport in Delhi. The check in agent told me that there is a new rule, specially for multiple entry tourist visas. The tourist has to be gone for 2 months before they return! I had only been one month and so could not board the plane... I spent the next 20 minutes frantically trying to call the Indian embassy, not that it would have done me any good.

Eventually I gave up but the airline company said that they are making a special exception for people like me, and would let me reschedule....

It's getting late and I have more visa adventures tomorrow so the saga will have to Be Continued...

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