Tony Threatens to Squash Dwarf

Not exactly my proudest moment, but ridiculously amusing all the same.

Winding our way through the crowded markets and bazaars surrounding Hyderabad’s Charminar provides the perfect opportunity for this week’s mental breakdown. 100+ degree temperatures combined with clouds of dust and exhaust fumes set the stage. As I push my way through the people, an old woman steps up and grabs my arm. “10 rupees!” she screeches at me. I continue on with her clinging to me. I yank my arm away and she curses me in Urdu. A dozen well-off Indians videoing the Charminar stand mere feet from her. She doesn’t approach a single one; instead, she makes a B-line for Thomas.

A man runs out and pleads, “What country? You want shawl?” I ignore him and the next three touts. Another man appears directly in front of my face, “Mangoes, mangoes, mangoes, mangoes, mangoes, mangoes.” Sounds good, but he is so annoying I decide I don’t want to reward him with business. Somewhere in the distance, I hear Thomas yell, “Weg! Lass mich in Ruhe! Get the hell away from me.”

Suddenly, I feel a tugging at my leg. I look down to discover a dwarf woman pulling on my Continue…

Charminar – The Four Towers

Hampi really provided us with a year’s worth of portraits, but now it’s time for a different kind of photo shoot. Having planned this for a year, we are returning to Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh, the top nature reserve to see Bengal tigers. And this time, we are more determined than ever to get a better look and, above all, better photos than last year.

To break up the 32-hour train trip, we are spending a couple of days in Hyderabad, India’s sixth largest city. Probably best known for its computer and Telugu language film industry, Hyderabad’s real attraction is the old center with the 400-year old Charminar, the predominantly Muslim city’s signature landmark. The dramatic structure with its four towers is surrounded by colorful bazaars selling everything from bangles to embroidered fabrics to overpowering perfume oils.

But the oriental fragrances are not the only overwhelming thing. The number of people, especially overzealous touts and aggressive beggars, are insane. Read the next posting to find out how Tony dealt with an especially insistent “little person.”

Hampi and the Chariot Festival

All we’ve heard traveling through India is that we have got to Hampi – and so we have. And we love it. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the place is dotted with 500-year old ruins of palaces and temples among a spectacular landscape of granite boulders, canals, banana plantations and rice patties.

Click play to watch video

The main focus of this video is not the inanimate, however, it is the riotous yearly chariot festival. Watch as two temple chariots carrying religious idols are being pulled along Bazaar Street, elephants bless the villagers with a touch of their trunk, people break out in song and dance, all while the frenzied crowd throws one of my favorite offerings at the moving chariots – bananas.

Good People

We’ve made our way to Hampi just in time to catch the famous Chariot Festival. The temples and ruins throughout the area are full of thousands of villagers who have walked into the town and set up camp in the ancient buildings to wait for the festivities to begin. (Where else in the world would people be allowed to camp in a UNESCO World Heritage Site?)

Curious about the throngs of people, we set out to explorer the impromptu camps. Phenomenal. Winding our way from temple to shrine through pillared halls and a sea of god statues, we moved from campfire to campfire meeting some of the greatest people we have encountered in India. Having walked in from distant villages, the townspeople and holy men are extremely unjaded by tourism. Rather than begging for money and harassing us for “gifts,” these amazing people share smiles and invitations to join them for a dinner under the stars. This is exactly what one dreams of finding in India.

Keep it Simple

“What is your country?”

“Germany.”

“No, which country?”

“I’m from Germany.”

“No, no, the country name.”

“Ger-ma-ny!”

Blank stares.

“You know, in Europe, the country next to France.”

“Ah, France, yes, yes. You are France.”

Tantalizing Tamil Nadu

As you can see from Thomas taking a break under Krishna’s Butterball, we are back in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and we are seriously in need of some rest after our adventures in the Andamans.

Unfortunately, the clock is ticking on our visa, so we aren’t going to be hanging out under the Butterball for long. But before we leave the land of the mega-temples, we thought we would share some of its treasures with you in our latest pictorial.

On him, all that glitters is gold

As the national elections in India are coming to an end after weeks of voting in all parts of the country, we are relieved not to be stranded without food or transportation anymore. On election day, restaurants stay closed (no matter how much you beg), and often public buses are on poll duty transporting ballots rather than passengers. But hopefully, everything will go back to the usual chaos now.

In the spirit of the elections, we want to share this article with you we found in the Times of India. This is one of those “quality”, front page articles to help voters cast their ballot.

Continue…

Bye Bye Andamans

Well, this video wraps up our one-month stay in the gorgeous Andaman Islands. Enjoy some new footage we haven’t shown on the blog and even get a bird’s-eye view of the islands.

Click play to watch video

The Jarawa and the Grand Trunk Road

It has come to our attention that the Indian government has recently been turning a blind eye to “human safaris” in which tourists are illegally visiting (or should I say harassing) the Jarawa. ContemporaryNomad.com does NOT encourage any form of visit to the Jarawa and we STRONGLY support the ban on travel to the Andamans until such issues have been resolved. Visit Survival International for information on the Jarawa and their struggle. We emphasize that our encounter with the Jarawa took place during the crossing of a collapsed bridge in 2009 before these organized safaris began.

After our previous post, I thought that I should comment a little more on our encounter with the Jarawa, one of the most isolated tribes in the Andamans. Those of you who have traveled in the developing world and have encountered tribal people there may be wondering how such traditional people could be standing right next to the road. It’s a very good question.

The Andaman Trunk Road is a highly controversial construction Continue…