Versatile Blogger

I already posted today, but then I read fellow blogger Gracie at Complicated Day's post. Everybody likes recognition and everyone likes (well, those who blog) sharing things about themselves. So... here's the deal. This is the versatile blogger award.

Here are the rules of this award:
1. Thanks and link back to the person who gave you the award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award to other bloggers.

First, I will say thanks to a few people for being good fun reads, great photos, good sources of information and much entertainment for me. Thanks to them, boredom has been kept at bay. I will give them the award. (ps. I would give it to Gracie if she hadn't already done it!) They are:


And now...my 7 things.

1. I am currently in Nepal, but am going home in about a week. I can't wait to see my family. And some snow.
2. I can tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue. And sing entire Disney songs. Not at the same time.
3. I can speak passable Spanish. I would like to be better than "passable".
4. I am a nomad. My parents live near Lake Tahoe, my last home was in San Francisco, not counting the 3 years I worked in New Orleans and the 9 months I worked in Des Moines, IA. I am starting to get a complex.
5. I never had any broken bones or stitches...until I was 23. I broke my pinky finger (barely counts) in Mexico and then had stitches in my chin (also barely counts) a couple years later.
6. I love the smell of old books. However, I hate dust. And mold.
7. I have a lot and I mean a lot of shoes. I worked at the ladies shoe department at Nordstrom...for about 8 years. Imagine...you get a discount. On sale shoes. Or even if you don't, sometimes it doesn't matter... The sad thing is, now that I don't work at Nordy's (I work doing damage assessments after natural disasters - aka Katrina) I usually wear sneakers or work boots. Oh the poor shoes are just sitting in storage waiting to be used.

Thanks again Gracie. Carry on ladies. If you feel like doing this list, put a comment with a link to it so we can go and check it out!

Listing for Home

So, we decided to go home early. The original plan was to stay in China until Thanksgiving, then go home for the holdiays and return to China right after Christmas. A couple of things happened that we need to take care of so, off we go…a bit early. Now that we have changed our ticket and the date is set (Nov 7) I really am GLAD to be going home. Not that I don’t always miss my family and friends, but normally travel is just so FUN. But, now that I am going home for sure, I am REALLY looking forward to it. However, of course, it calls for a list. What I need/want to get done while I am home (total time: approximately 7 weeks).
1.       Make cookies with my Mom. And Banana Bread. And….
2.       Get the BIG CAMERA (yay!) out of hiding and USE IT.
3.       Cook a Thanksgiving turkey (actually, it will be my first time)
4.       Meet K’s new baby A (and see K and A of course)
5.       Have a couple of glasses of wine with my brother
6.       Go to the Mission district in San Francisco and EAT a BURRITO. Yum.
7.       Do a photo walk around Tobin (The Muses are doing a “where I live” series  I am looking forward to contributing to)
8.       Make a snowman
9.       Chop down a Christmas tree (it’s a family tradition)
10.   Drive from Quincy to Des Moines
11.   See Lea’s new house
12.   Go to Target to re-up my travel supplies (and to gawk…I havent been to Target in ages!)
13.   Have lunch with Grandma Barb
14.   Go to the Pig Roast in Acushnet (last year’s photos are HERE)
15.   Organize all my travel photos (eeek)
16.   Finish my journal (or at least TRY to catch up)
17.   Make/send Christmas cards
18.   Meet Nadine’s new baby (Chance) and see her new house
19.   Day After Christmas breakfast with the girls
20.   Take a walk on the beach on both the East and West coasts.
21.   Fix the roof of my house (dread)
22.   Autograph Sara’s favorite photo
23.   Read some books (I have been slacking lately)
24.   Try to finally complete one of Katrinas Photo Walks (even though I am months late)
25.   Help Dad with the “winter” cleaning
26.   Beat my parents at Rummikub. Hopefully.
27.   Go see The Moth in NYC
28.   Visit my East Coast Family
So, I am sure I am missing a bunch more things, but this is a good start. All of a sudden 7 weeks starts to seem very short. At least I already have my Christmas shopping done. I am looking forward to doing all of these things on my list...I will do an update after Christmas.


Notable Notes: 10 of Our Favorite Experiences So Far

view of Rialto at night1. Brazil v. Portugal World Cup Game
Seeing the Brazil v. Portugal game in Portugal was a hoot. We got there early so we had plenty of time to see the action unfold. People would not let other people sit next to them because they were rooting for the opposite team. The police had to be called because people were standing in front of other people who were sitting and they wouldn’t move. The game ended in a tie, which is probably the best, because a riot may have broken out otherwise. The fans all wore the team colors. There was a big screen in the middle of a plaza. It was so alive!

2. Seeing Mt. Everest
The whole hiking in the Himalayas experience was very cool. The views, the challenge, seeing the way the locals live: these were all highlights of the trip. However, being able to see the highest mountain in the world was something you just can’t parallel. It’s not the prettiest mountain, but it sure is tall!

3. Seeing Elephants and Lions
In both Namibia and South Africa, we went on a self drive safari. In both places we got to see so many cool animals! The best part was in Namibia when we went early in the morning, we saw a pride of about 7 lions, one mere feet from our car. There is nothing like seeing a lion in the wild. Watching it on the Discovery Channel is cool, but seeing it for real outside your window is…priceless.

4. Venice
It is overrun with tourists. Everything is overpriced. However, that pales to the beauty of the tiny streets, canals, boats, churches and grandiose squares filled with coffee shops and monuments. We wandered around Venice, got lost and found ourselves again so many times. It was great. There is a certain magic to this place. I would suggest, however, a trip in the spring or even winter, because without the crowds it must be even better! 

5. Topless Sunbathing in France
Yes, I finally did it. I never had before. In Biarritz, we went to the beach and I decided that “when in Rome” and I threw off my top and lay on the beach like a local. It was liberating. It felt great.

6. Hitchhiking on an 18 Wheeler
Again, a first for me, and a good one. The guys that picked us up were nice. They bought us coffee because we hadn’t gotten a chance to get any local currency yet. They told us stories and pointed out elephants along the way. They let Big K drive the truck. They got us all the way from Zambia far into Namibia. What a ride!

7. Trekking in the Drakensburgs
Right next to Lesotho in South Africa is the Drakensburg range. These are the highest mountains around. We had a great few days hiking around, even when we took a wrong turn and went down instead of up and had to backtrack back up to get to where we wanted to go. We were there in August, which is a good time to be there, as it is Spring and the mountains are all still green. The views were spectacular and the hiking was just the right amount of difficulty.

8. Cape Town
This is one of those cities where you say, “I could live there”. It is surrounded by ocean and in the middle of the city is a mountain. You can go hiking, swimming and to your favorite coffee shop in town all on the same day. The setting is idyllic. Whatever you like, it is there. We liked it all.

9. Diving in the Red Sea
On the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, we went diving in the Red Sea. I had heard people say that this was some of the best diving in the world, and they were right. It is. The water is so clear and you can see forever. There are tons of fish and octopus and corals. It is absolutely gorgeous!

10. Albania
Out of all the countries, Albania was the most (pleasantly) surprising. They have mountains and beaches and ruins. The people are so friendly. The country is absolutely beautiful. To top it all off, it was much cheaper than most of Europe. We had planned on stopping on our way through to Croatia for just a few days and we ended up staying a week.

For more photos of these places, you can click on the links for each section or go to my RTW flickr page.


Pizza in Kathmandu

So we were on the mountain, at 17,000 feet and we were eating rice and vegetables every day. Don’t get me wrong, I like rice and vegetables, but there is just something about the times when you don’t have a choice that you REALLY want something else. So, we were craving pizza. A good one with a thin crust and just enough cheese but not so much that the pizza is greasy. As we were sitting around reminiscing about the “perfect” pizza and complaining because probably the next time we would have one was when we were back to the States, a friend interrupted us and told us that there were a few good pizza places in Kathmandu. We were intrigued.

Once we got back to Kathmandu, we decided to try all the suggestions and more. What we found is that there is not only good pizza in Kathmandu but there is also good Italian, Thai, French, Chinese, Nepali, Indian, Steak, and even a not too bad place to get Nachos. So what have we been doing for the past few days? You guessed it, Eating,

We eat out a lot. In Nepal, it is actually cheaper to eat out than to try to make your own food. Besides, none of the hotels have kitchens. You can get a good meal for anywhere from two to five dollars. Of course, if you want to splurge, you can spend ten dollars or more.

Here are our top three favorite pizza places.

1. Roadhouse Café
2. Fire and Ice
3. La Dolce Vita

For breakfast we found a “German” bakery, which makes cinnamon rolls and even croissants, which are not as flakey as a real French one, but are a darn good substitute, since we are not in France. They even have filter coffee. We even found a place that has free refills (this is very hard to come by!) We are in heaven. I mean, in Italy, you buy a cappuccino and it is 3 euros and it is the size of a thimble. I could drink about 10 of them.

So, although I would not have guessed it, in Nepal you can get pretty good food, and darn good pizza!

Notable Notes: 10 Interesting Things We Have Seen

1. HS “Class Of” T-shirts
In Africa, there are many people wearing “I graduated from ____ HS Class of 1995” T-shirts. This is funny when you know the HS is in the US. I guess this is a popular item to give to goodwill and where do they end up? Africa, apparently.

2. Topless Bathing With Geriatrics
In Greece, we went for a swim in the Adriatic. The beach we chose was a geriatric hangout. We witnessed many an old lady (and a couple of old men) changing on the beach. Shirt off, bra off, suit on, no worries.

3. Taxi Ride Hijacking
While in a taxi in Egypt, we were stopped at an intersection and two kids ran in front of our taxi, stopping the driver. They then tried to get in. This was not really a hijacking. In Egypt, it is common to share a cab. They were only asking the driver if he was going their way. However, it was pretty weird at first.

4. Matola Ride
In Malawi (Africa) they have “shared taxis” otherwise known as matolas. These are just somebody’s (small) pickup and everyone rides in the back. In the back of our matola, we had about 24 people, one guy with about 12 dozen eggs, that he didn’t break.

5. Hitchhiking Across Namibia
In Namibia, we hitched a ride with an 18 wheeler. In the course of our ride (about 17 hours and over a thousand kilometers) Mr. Lovely got to drive the truck and we got to listen to our new friend talk about how he wanted us to “see a F&^%ing Kudu man” (a kudu is a large deer with swirly horns). We also saw elephants and warthogs but did NOT see a F^%$*ing kudu.

6. Living With a Huge Beard
We have had a few arguments over the beard. We have been stared at and commented upon because of the beard. We have been offered hash and worse because of the beard. We have taken pictures of the beard and likened it to Zeus. It can almost be made into dreadlocks. The beard's name is Brodie.

7. Staying in Shitty Hotels
We have stayed in some bad hotels. Sometimes there are bugs. Sometimes there is mold or dirt. They are too hot; they are too cold. They are smelly. The toilets don’t work. They don’t have any hot showers. The worst one was in India, near the train station in Gorakhpur. It was called the Sunrise. When we stayed there, we got up before sunrise to leave.

8. Kids Carrying Goats
In the Himalayas, the porters carry everything. They carry roughly 80 pounds as far as we could tell. They carry kerosene tanks and Pepsi and cooking oil. But the weirdest one was one day as I was hiking I could smell blood. Fresh meat. I don’t know if you know that smell; it’s a little gamey. I smelled it and couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Finally I realized the porters had baskets full of freshly killed goats. Cut into pieces.

9. Diving With Great Whites
In South Africa, we went into freezing cold water to swim with great white sharks. It was crazy; they were about 6 inches from our faces! One even bit the cage (I wasn’t in it at the time, but it was still pretty impressive).

10. Multiple Stick Carrying Tactics
We saw people carrying cords of wood on their bikes, on wagons that they were pushing, on their motorcycles and best of all, on their heads. I never knew there were so many ways to transport wood!

10 Reasons Why Nepal is Better Than India

 A guest blog by Mr. Lovely.

I know that millions of people a year visit India and have an incredible time. I have read and heard about many great travels thru the sub-continent that describe the wonder of this exotic locale. India is a place of incredible culture and history and quite unique in the world. However, after suffering through more than the standard amount of travel woes in India I began to question if the sites are worth the hassle. These hassles were further illustrated once we entered Nepal. A place with similar culture, history, landscape and people, only fewer hassles. Of course, I am well aware that India does have more to offer than Nepal (seaside beaches for one), but there are a few reasons why I think Nepal is a better choice for your travel:

1.  No cows in the street.
 At first these traffic clogging bovines do have some charm. You don’t get to see cows roaming freely as you walk around New York City, and it makes for a good photo op. But after a few days of dodging cows (some which attack you), being stuck in cow traffic jams and stepping around piles of cow @&#!, cow free Nepal is a joy.

2. Working sewerage systems
There are of course many infrastructure issues in developing countries. After visiting poor countries in South America, Africa and Asia I find the sanitation in India to be the worst. Open sewers and raw sewerage running down the street is sub-standard for virtually any country, for a place like India with such a fast growing economy and no shortage of labor force, this is inexcusable. Nepal, India’s poorer little brother to the east is not perfect, but it is obvious that the people expect better.

3. Smells
As you can imagine, open sewers and people who performing all manners of bodily functions on street corners in the open gives India a certain essence which is inescapable.  Literally from the time you get off the plane until the time you leave, thru out the wide swath of India we visited, coastal, desert, urban and rural. The stench was there.

4. No Pushy Touts
In India everyone seems like they are only after your money. In Nepal they are as well but you don’t feel like you are being cheated.

5. Food Quality
In India many places are dirty, empty and you fear food poisoning. In Nepal, you can get pizzas, Chinese, Mexican or whatever you want, and the restaurants are clean. You can even eat salad (which is called “hygienic salad”).

6. Cost
You can get cheap food in India, but you may get diarrhea. For good food, or a semi nice room, Nepal is just cheaper.

7. Hotel Quality
As stated above, you can get a nice room in Nepal for a pretty good price. In India, you can get a pretty good price, but you may also compete with rats, roaches, mold, dysfunctional toilets and dirt.

8. Beggars
In India you get harassed at every corner. The beggars are plentiful and persistent. In Nepal, there are a few people asking for money,  but it is not half as bad.

9. Toilets
In Nepal the toilets are cleaner, they flush most of the time and they don’t smell like boiled diarrhea. And they are mostly western style, which is a lot easier when you need to go to the toilet in the middle of the night.

10. Friendly Natives
The Nepalese are laid back. The shop owners are not pushy. You get the feeling people are willing to help you because they like people, not only because they are expecting something in return.


Three Years of Cheer

Today is Mr. Lovely and my 3rd anniversary. I can’t believe that he has put up with me so long. I know many of you have been married for years and may think 3 is not that many, but I am a real pain in the ass, so it counts as about 3x as much. Tonight, we are going to go to a low key dinner in Kathmandu and maybe even have a glass of wine; that is pretty much it. I am looking forward to it. I am not going to get all gushy; I don't do that. BUT, he is a wonderful travel companion and friend and I am happy to keep him for a little while longer (wink, wink).

Trekking The Himalays: The Day We Walked Along a Valley to the Day We Recovered

Day 5: The Day We Walked Along a Valley. (Phortse Thanga to Luza) Today we woke up early, had our breakfast of tea and eggs and set off. The weird thing about this place is that everything that is up in any of these tea houses has to be taken up by someone. Porters are everywhere; they carry hiker’s bags, eggs, soda and any other supplies that may be needed. They must carry almost a hundred pounds sometimes. It makes me feel like I have no right to complain; I only have about 30 lbs on my back.  We arrive at our destination after not too steep of a hill, but I am definitely out of breath a lot. We walk along a really cool valley with huge mountains on both sides and a really white mountain way in the distance.
Prayer Flags at Luza
Day 6: The Day it Snowed. (Luza to Gokyo) Today we woke up and there was snow on the ground. It wasn’t a lot of snow, just a light dusting, but it made the mountains around us look like a kind of fairy land. The nice lady at our tea house took pity on us; we all have colds. She gave us each a nice cup of lemon tea, which did make me feel better. We started walking and it was like perfect timing - we got to the top of a little ridge and the sun came out! The valley was sunny and the white mountain in the distance looked like a cloud, it was so white. I am really feeling the altitude today. Most of our hike is a gradual uphill, which ends at about 15,800 feet. The air is very thin. We are VERY glad to get to the tea house.
View of the Gokyo Valley
Day 7: The Day We Saw Mt Everest. (Gokyo to Lake Five) When you are at altitude, it is suggested that if you are having any issues, you should “hike high and sleep low”. So we decided to take a little day hike (and it is SO NICE without carrying the big pack!) up to 17,000 feet and then hike back down to our tea house and sleep there again. It was even harder than yesterday. After every step you have to stop and take a breath. So it is pretty slow going - hike, stop, breath, hike, stop, breath. We made it to the “top” though and from there, you can see Mt Everest! It is not a spectacular looking mountain, but just knowing it is the highest in the world is a pretty big rush!
Mt Everest is the middle one - the first non pointy one from left
Day 8: The Day We Recovered. (Gokyo) We were still feeling a little bit of altitude sickness, so day 8 was spent playing rummy, relaxing and eating. An unfortunate girl had altitude sickness really bad, so had to get a helicopter evacuation, as it’s the only way to get off the mountain. We watched it and took pictures and thought, “well that is a quick way to get back to Kathmandu.”
This is one "hot" shower I did not take
More soon!


The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

Taken from www.treehugger.com
Its almost that time of year again. Holiday Pals time! If you did not participate last year, now's your chance! What is Holiday Pals, you ask? Well, it is a way for you to find new recipes, new ideas for crafts, to share your recipes and photos with others and to see what your friends are up to during the holidays.

All of us always need new things to try and at the holidays especially, we all like food! So, please join us. Even if you just come to the site to find a new thing to make or to see what people are up to these days, we are happy. But...we are even happier if you send us your favorite recipe, photo or idea, holiday or otherwise (personally I am always happy to learn about new COOKIES to make).

See HERE for our explanation from last year of why we wanted to start this blog.

Here is what you can do if you want to contribute:

- Cook your favorite thing(s).
- Take a photo of you with your delicious item (if you are shy, you can just send the food item only. If you don't feel like doing that, just the written recipe is also fine).
- Send the photo and a written description to ME or LEA. We will post it online for you.
- Come check out the site to see your item and to find more items from other people.
- Multiple entries are encouraged.
- HERE is an example of what we like. 

 **OR you can just send a photo of yourself celebrating holiday cheer! We like all things holiday!**

If you just want to browse:

-We are trying to make sure all items are tagged. This means you can go to the section on the left where it says "LABELS" and if you want to make chicken, you click on chicken and all the chicken recipes will come up in a list.

- We will try to tag by name as well. This means if you love a recipe that "Lea" sent in, you can go to the "labels" section and click on "Lea" and all her recipes will be in a list.

- Please click on the "FOLLOW" icon on the left hand side and when new recipes are submitted they will be sent right to your reader.

Hiking the Himalayas: The Very Easy Day to The First Very Painful Day

Our plan in the beginning was to do a 14 to 21 day trek in the Himalayas. The highest point would be about 18000 feet. We did not last as many days at we planned. This though, is another story. Today I will tell you what we DID do.

Day 1: The Very Easy Day. We flew from Kathmandu to a small town called Lukla. Lukla is a town about 8000 feet above sea level. There are no roads to Lukla. To get there, you must fly or walk. We flew and arrived there around noon. From Lukla, we walked for about 3 hours to get to our first destination. Let me explain the trekking in this area. It is called “tea house trekking”, which means you don’t have to camp or carry your own food. Yes, I know this is like luxury hiking. I have never had it so good. Normally we have to carry our own food and a camp stove and a tent. For this trek, there are lodges (tea houses) every couple of hours (most of the time). We got to the first tea house in a couple of hours and settled into our (cold) room. It was rainy and cool but not too bad.

A porter, taking a much needed break
Day 2: The Uphill All the Way Day. We started off early and hiked along the river for a couple of hours. The river was beautiful, very grey blue and frothy. We walked along the valley alongside the river. The weather was great and we had our first glimpse of a pointy snow covered peak. Then it got difficult. The trail went uphill for about three hours and the elevation increased by about 3000 feet to 11,000 feet. And it was straight uphill. If you have never hiked at elevation, which is anything above about 10,000 feet, you should know that it is very difficult. The oxygen levels decrease, which make you fatigue very easily, get out of breath very easily and sometimes even worse -- headaches, dizziness and nausea. I was definitely fatigued.

Prayer flags on the moutain
Day 3: The Rest Day. We spent the day today resting (this is necessary so you don’t get altitude sickness) and hanging out at the Bazaar at a particularly big town. They have a Saturday market where they sell pots and pans, spices, flour and a lot of trash cans of all different colors. We went to the pharmacy and got some aspirin just in case we experienced headaches (you can get pretty much any drug over the counter in Nepal). We drank a lot of tea. We bought snacks. It was a good day.

Namche Bazaar - Saturday Market
Day 4: The First Very Painful Day. Today it was pretty much straight up the ENTIRE way. The hills were tough, and the altitude was starting to get to me. I huffed and puffed my way up the hill. A couple of highlights of the day: (1) We ate the best fried noodles we had eaten so far. Basically these are chow mein, but they are a definite staple while trekking. Those and “dal bhat”, which is lentils, rice and potatoes. This is the main meal of the sherpas. (2) Our first really good view of the mountains. It is so weird; there is fog all around you and you are hiking and all of a sudden the fog clears and the snow covered mountains have you surrounded! It is crazy. You never even realized they were there. And they are HUGE and white and pointy! It’s great. The place we stayed the night had no blankets. Luckily we have sleeping bags, but it is starting to get pretty chilly (there is no indoor heating either). Also, they had no electricity. Needless to say we went to bed around 8 o’clock. This was the first day my head really started to hurt (from altitude). We slept at about 13,000 feet.

Mr Lovely + Prayer Flags + Mount Kongde
So that's the first four days. More to come soon!


Belly: The Update

Well, in two days, we should be out of India and....NO DELHI BELLY!!! Yay! I am probably jinxing myself.

I actually wrote the above three days ago. Right after I wrote this, we went to lunch. About 6 hours later, I was having a very close relationship with the toilet.

I miss my mom. When I used to get sick as a child, she would settle me on the couch with an orange juice, a bowl of chicken noodle soup, a blanket, a cold washcloth and the Star Wars trilogy. Three days ago I got sick around 7 o'clock and had to catch a train at 9 o'clock. It was hot and dusty and we had to take a rickshaw to the train station. I had to carry my 40 lb backpack and I was sweating and hoping I would not be sick, but at the same time, I was glad the rickshaw did not have any doors, just in case.

We had a 16 hour train ride, a 2 hour layover, another 6 hour train ride, 5 hours of sleep and then 13 more hours on a bus. I think that whole time I ate 12 crackers, 5 cookies and half a sprite. We finally arrived in Kathmandu yesterday and this morning I had my FIRST REAL MEAL. It was delicious. I even had coffee. Its the little things you really appreciate.

However, now, as I type this, Mr. Lovely is in bed with the same thing. Luckily he is in a place where he can stay in bed and not have to go ANYWHERE. We are planning on going trekking, but it can be pushed back a couple or a few days. I went today to get all the permits and pay the park fees, do laundry and get any last minute items we may need for our trek. Kathmandu is much cleaner than any of the India cities. I am glad. Very glad. I only hope the food is cleaner too.

"Agra" Vated

I am not a patient person. I drive too fast. I don’t like to wait for people. I hate it when people are late. I am a neat freak. If you move my toothpaste, my sense of yin and yang are confused. So, I am at a little bit of a impasse here in India. It is dirty and smelly. People take craps in the middle of the street. Literally. It smells of sewage. There are so many beggars. Nothing is on time and nobody does what they say they are going to do. You get ripped off half the time and feel like you are getting ripped off all of the time. Everybody wants a tip, even if you don’t want the service they think they are providing (like little boys singing songs in English then holding out their hand). Everybody has the “best tour” or the “best hotel” or the “best food”. 

So, why am I here, you ask. It sounds like a horrible place, doesn’t it? Well it’s not that bad. Sometimes I get a tad overwhelmed and aggravated with all the beggars and the dirt and the scams. But you have to look past that and see what else is there. And it is really quite interesting. 

We went to a spice market the other day. The spices are yellow and orange and red. I have no idea what they are called. I think  they may be saffron, turmeric and chili. I do know that what we consider “curry” powder is really a mixture (they call it a “masala”) of these spices. They stack them up in little pyramids (they are ground up, like chili powder or paprika) and they line up all the pyramids, so the market is row after row of colorful spices.  

The women all wear saree’s, which is a skirt or pants with a matching top and a “shawl”. The shawl is actually a piece of fabric about 20 feet long by 3 feet wide and they wrap it around their waist a couple of times then up and over the front and around the back and sometimes over the head. The sarees are bright colors with crazy patterns. It is so fun to see a group of all the colored ladies together. 

India was quite rich at one time. Before the Portuguese started doing the spice trading by sea, goods were taken over land, through India and Pakistan to Turkey or Europe, usually by camel. Silk, spices, tea and opium were some of the big exports. This made for some really rich cities with the king (Raj) sometimes having several palaces. In Udaipur, the king had a Lake Palace in the middle of the lake, a City Palace and a Monsoon Palace, which was high up on a hill and he would retreat to when the rains came. These palaces are all very opulent. 

The Hindu temples are huge, with little carvings all over the entire thing. When you go into a temple, you must take off your shoes. Also, as cows are sacred (and treated as Gods) you must not enter the temple with any leather items on.

We went to one city called Jodhpur, which was not named after the riding pants, but actually it is the other way around. When the British first came here, they bought the pants in India and loved the pants so much that they started to sell them back in England as Jodhpurs. 

The Taj Mahal, which we went to today, was built by a king who’s wife died. He built it as a monument to her. It took something like 22 years to build. Her body was buried in the middle of it. Everything is symmetrical. In fact, once he died, they didn’t know what to do, since her body was already smack dab in the middle, so it would mess up the symmetry by putting him next to her. They did it anyway, but built a little box around it, so the box around it still fits in with the symmetry. 

So today we are in Agra. It is the home of the Taj Mahal. Surprisingly, I have only been stopped on the street and asked to buy post cards, a little tiny snow globe with the Taj Mahal inside, 47 tours of the Taj Mahal, “authentic” Indian paintings and antiques, breakfast, lunch and a “good rooftop view, the best in Agra”. But I put up with these things because I know that it’s all worth it.

Ripped Off

Have you ever felt like you were being cheated? Like you go to a remote island and the bottled waters are 8 dollars, or a baseball game and the hot dogs are the same price? At least there is a sign that says, HOT DOG $8, so you KNOW if you buy that hot dog, you are going to be paying too much. But you have the choice in the beginning to choose if you want to pay too much or not.

In India, you often don’t get that choice. Nobody has prices posted. Everything is a haggle and oftentimes you don’t know where the starting price is. We had an incident that I am going to share with you not only to vent but in case anyone else is going to this place, hopefully if they google it, they will see this review and be forewarned.

To everyone who is traveling in India -- If you go to Jaisalmer and are hoping to do a camel tour, DO NOT go to the Jaisal View Hotel (which may pass itself off as the Rajdhani Hotel). The guy there is a crook. His name is Mr. Kahn (MK).

We had read in the guide book that it was a pain in the butt to try to figure out which camel tour operator to use, as they all claim to be “the best in town” and to “have the best service”. However, the book says that you do not always get what you pay for. I can agree to that.

We were already on our toes, as from what we had heard when you get off the bus in Jaisalmer you are swamped with rickshaw (taxi) drivers trying to give you a ride to the “best hotel”. What happens is that they tell you the hotel you want is closed and they will take you to another good one. This “good one” gives them a commission. So, we were “recommended” a place by a guy in the last town we were in (Jodhpur) who said it was owned by his brother. I have a feeling this guy was not a brother, but just another person who gets commission for the “recommendation”. However, we didn’t figure this out until later.

When we got to the bus station, a guy got on the bus and said, “aren’t you coming from Jodhpur? My brother said to look for you” and we were. He said, “I will take you to  your hotel, the one that my brother told you to go to“. I wonder how many “brothers” these guys have. Then we got off the bus and another guy said “oh you must be coming from Jodhpur. My brother told me you were coming”. So they all just say the same thing. Finally we found the “brother”, the owner of the hotel that we had been recommended, and he took us to the hotel, which turned out also to not be the hotel on the brochure that the “brother” had shown us.

We should have known. Once we arrived, Mr. Kahn wouldn’t leave our side. We wanted a cold drink; he sat next to us the whole time we drank it. Then he asked if we wanted to do a camel trek. Of course we did and we thought we would just see what he had to say, what the heck. Well, his game was to tell us the tours and the prices, which were quite high and then when I asked about doing only 2 days instead of three, he knocked a couple thousand rupees off the price. So we thought it didn’t seem too expensive (and we had just gotten a good deal, right), so we said okay. Now that I look back, I see little things that I should have seen before. For example when I said we needed some time to think about it and discuss it over, he said he had to inform the camel boss by 5 o’clock and it was already 445, so we had to tell him in the next ten minutes. He just didn’t want us to go out and look at other prices. For that same reason he was hanging about, not giving us any private time. He also told us not to tell anyone that we got our tour cheaper than the regular price because they may be jealous or start trouble. So when a girl asked us how much we paid, we told her. They had been told the same thing -- you are getting a really good deal, so don’t tell anyone.

I wish we would have gone and looked at other prices beforehand. The tour was mediocre. The service was not good. The items he promised were not delivered. After we got back we decided to torture ourselves and compare prices. The other tours were cheaper with the same “special” services. Plus one we looked at even let you pay half now and half after and if you weren’t satisfied you didn’t have to pay the second half. Now that sounds more reasonable to me.

I just feel so stupid when I know I have been ripped off. And we realized it right in the beginning but had already paid. So, in order to feel a little bit better, I have vented here, plus I will give the details so if anyone else finds this, hopefully they will go somewhere else. Then my revenge will be complete. Mooowhhhahahahaha (that was a Dr Evil laugh).

So, please. If you are going on a camel trek, DO NOT GO to the Jaisal View Hotel in Jaisalmer. The guy said his name was Mr. Kahn (who knows if it is his real name). He will lie to you. I would also watch out for the Hotel Rajdhani as well, because I don’t know what the scam is but they may be in on it as well.

THE DETAILS: (avoid these places!!)

Hotel Rajdhani - Jaisalmer Old City, Near Patwan Ki Haveli
Jaisal View Hotel - near the Artists Lodge on the north side of town


We got ripped off. We paid 9300 Rupees for 2 nights, 3 days, 2 people. At first he wanted 12,000 for the two of us.


-Hotel Peacock, Chainpura Street, Gandhi Chowk -- 950 per day per person, as many days as you want. This is the place that said you could pay half later if you enjoyed the trip.
-Renuka Hotel (next to Hotel Peacock)-- 1 night, 2 days = 1900 a person, plus 950 per day for extra day
-Trio Restaurant, Gandhi Chowk -- the guy that owns the Trio also arranges trips for 2000/day per person. These are with a tent and a toilet and the same cooks as he has at the restaurant and all the amenities. (PS they have really good food and a view of the fort!)