Shyam Goes to Goa

Walking through Agonda village the other day, we ran into Shyam, an “old Nepali friend” from Rishikesh. Shyam immediately recognized us (not surprising after our epic three-week stay at the New Swiss Bandari Cottage, where he was working.)

We were shocked to discover that while he was working at New Swiss Bandari Cottage, Shyam was slaving away from 7 AM to 11 PM for a mere $30 a month. (God, I hope we tipped well, I can’t remember.)

In the meantime, Shyam has taken the situation into his own hands, left Rishikesh, and moved down to the Monsoon Guesthouse on Agonda beach in Goa, where he has doubled his salary. Hmmm, that is still far too little, but at least he is much happier with the change.

Hanging Out

As you can see from our Christmas posting, Thomas and I have been hanging out in various beaches along the Konkan coast since the attacks in Mumbai. (Mostly in Agonda beach in Goa.) Basically, we get up, eat breakfast, hang out in a hammock, lie on the beach, eat peanut brittle, hang out a little longer, swim, eat pineapple, swim again, watch the sunset, and then eat dinner. Our biggest decision is whether to have pizza, garlic calamari, or masala prawns 🙂

Are we in a rut? Oh yes, a glorious beach rut.

Bhimbetka

Bhimbetka, a collection of more than 600 rock shelters with prehistoric paintings, was one of the main reasons why we came to Bhopal. The name “Bhopal” and its connotations couldn’t keep us away from such a unique World Heritage Site.

A one hour bus ride away from the city buzz, Bhimbetka’s rock shelters are hidden away in a patch of sal and teak forest. Walking through the place on the shadowy paths and away from the scorching sun, the first thing we noticed was Continue…

Bhopal

On December 3, 1984, what is generally considered the world’s worst industrial accident took place in Bhopal, capital of the Indian state of Madya Pradesh. Tons of deadly methyl isocyanate gas leaked out of the American owned Union Carbide chemical plant and swept across the city killing an undetermined number of people. The initial official death toll was 3,828, however locals claim the number was much higher and that many bodies were secretly removed by the Indian government during the night. The continuing death toll has risen to over 20,000 and over half a million people suffer from illnesses related to the disaster.

The location of this terrible tragedy may seem an extremely unlikely tourist destination; however, Bhopal is quite an enjoyable city with what I have unofficially determined to be the best lassis in the country. (Definitely stop by the Manohar restaurant for a sweet lassi – and everything else.)

In addition to the creamiest lassis on the planet, there are tons of local attractions including two world heritage sites, the prehistoric rock paintings at Bhimbetka and the extraordinary Buddhist ruins at Sanchi. (One of my top goals in India was to visit the ruins at Sanchi.)

If you want to learn more about Bhopal and the long-term effects of the disaster check out www.bhopal.org.

Thick Air

As we moved from Amritsar to Delhi, the region was experiencing record levels of pollution. These were some of the most nightmarish environmental conditions we have seen anywhere causing serious health issues and leaving us both completely nauseated and our lungs burning.

Anyone out there who still doubts humanity’s ability to impact the planet should be forced to live in these conditions for an extended period of time. That’ll teach you!

God Children

When you walk into a Hindu temple, you never know what the people will be worshipping inside. It might be a stone lingam or perhaps what looks like a silver Barbie Doll dressed up in her Gone with the Wind ball gown. It might be cows, monkeys or rats. Perhaps the people are praying to a spot on the ground where Sati’s left breast landed after she was consumed by flames in the heavens. Or, possibly, it’s where her nose landed. You never know. Continue…

Golden Temple Amritsar

We’ve heard a lot of people raving about the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the Sikh’s holiest shrine close to the Pakistani border. Of all the monuments in northern India travelers talk about, the Golden Temple is probably a close second to the Taj Mahal. But unlike the Taj, the Golden Temple is completely free of charge and welcomes everyone, even inviting people to eat free of charge in their massive communal kitchen. The kitchen is open 24 hours a day and there is no distinction between race or caste. Very cool.

Click play to be wowed

Instead of putting up pictures, we decided to make a short video which conveys a lot more atmosphere. See for yourself the crowds of pilgrims walking around Hari Mandir Sahib (the main temple) and people bathing in the sacred pool, and listen to the continuous chanting of four priests inside the temple broadcast over loudspeakers.

What’s a Sikh?

Many of you have probably met Sikhs, seen their distinctive beards and turbans, but never really asked yourself what Sikhism is. Since we are in Amritsar, the center of Sikhism and the home of its holiest site, the Golden Temple, we thought we should give a brief intro.

Although Sikhs wear turbans, Sikhism is NOT an exotic offshoot of Islam as many might mistakenly believe.

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion developed in the 15th century based on the teachings of Guru Nanak and nine successor gurus. The religion is unique because Continue…