Simon writes:

Oh bugger, I had almost finished this update when we had a nice little blackout (sorry, I mean “load sharing”), so here goes again…

We were actually in Orcha nearly two weeks ago, so this is a bit out of sequence. It was just before Agra.

Orcha itself is a pretty small village, only a few streets really, although the main market and guest house area are pretty lively until the small hours of the morning. Thats not nightlife lively by the way, India is rarely like that, just people lively.

The bus dropped us off at the turn off to Orcha, about 13km away, so we had to arrange a ride from there. The taxi we found was the king of auto rickshaws, a huge rusty car sized three wheeler which the driver had to start by repeatably turning a crank, kind of like one of those old bi-planes.

The main attraction in Orcha is the old ruined fort and temple. We have definitely seen a few old temples and forts by now, but this was perhaps the most memorable. It was in the process of being restored, although much of the beauty of the place was the timescape effect the old ruined parts had. The fort is massive, definitely a few kilometres long, and you can climb all the way up to the battlements and towers, which presents you with a panoramic view of the surrounding jungle. Scattering the landscape in all directions are more old temples and ruins, some just protruding from the treetops.

As you explore further from the main fort itself, old dirt roads wind through the trees and you come across seemingly endless further ruins (and cows of course, cows are everywhere in India, even in the ruins at Orcha, cows cows cows).

We even found some stairs descending into darkness, and followed them a little way, only to find they came to an abrupt drop. It seemed man made though, so who knows what was down their (more cows probably).

The other major building there was a masive old temple. You could climb through tiny dark passages that made their way up into the various stories of the temple, sometimes popping out in small dwarf like balconies several stories high. You could also get to the roof, which had incredible views like the ones from the top fort towers. I’m sure a temple like this in New Zealand would have bars and locked gates all over it to prevent you accidentally popping out of a small tunnel and falling a few stories, as the place didn’t seem the safest of buildings, but the fact that you could access anywhere really added to the fun of it.

There wasn’t really anything else of note in Orcha. We played more Canasta until we decided it might ruin our friendship, it can be most frustrating losing that stupid game to say the least!. We love it though (mostly).

It is perhaps the capital of flies in India though, eating outside here is only for those with strong stomachs. I would say I’d have one land directly on my nose at least a few times a day (law of averages).

I don’t really want to leave Orcha on the topic of flies though, as it was an incredible place, and a must see for anyone who finds themselves in this area of India in my books.

Until next time then, bye.


Agra (aka Agro)

Simon writes:

It’s often called Agro by tourists but we think we had a good run, and it fortunately didn’t really live up to it’s reputation of being a dirty smelly city where you can’t move one metre without being overwhelmed by a horde of touts, beggars and persistent salesman. There was an episode of salesmanship taken to an extreme that seemed impossible, but more on that later.

The train ride to Agra was an experience in itself. There’s a few classes of train in India, and we have generally opted for “sleeper”, which is the cheapest class you can get where you can reserve a seat/bed. The option down is general, and in India, this means everyone who wants buys tickets, no max limit, and everyone piles on to the point where people are hanging off people who are hanging off the edge of the door. Grant and myself lost each other fairly early into the trip (the lucky dog got a seat as well – grrr) and I had a nice cosy standing posse squashed next to the (nice clean…..) toilet, so there was plenty of pungent aroma’s to keep me awake. When we stopped at the first major train station, people charged on in numbers at least ten times the capacity of the carriage. People frantically shouted at me to move my pack as it was in the way and one helpful Indian urged me to pass it over, which I did in the panic of the moment only to watch him toss it out the door!. Anyway, I didn’t move until I got it back, which was only about 10 seconds, but in the madness and surging urgency of the moment, hordes of Indians nearly beat me to a pulp. Gulp!.

It really was like Indians turn into raging psychopaths during the mad stampede to get on the train, I’ve never seen anything like it. Fortunately, people calm down once their on, and I was lucky enough to avoid a beating. Perhaps being a bulky foreigner helped……..

The other end of the train ride was not up to the chaotic Agro expectations we had, and there were plenty of keen AutoRickshaw taxi drivers fighting over our ride to the hotel. We ended up with a guy that seemed quite nice, and had a book of highly positive feed back signed and written by his previously satisfied foreign customers. This should have been our first warning sign, the second warning sign was when he started calling us “my dear” and “my brother” after knowing us only five minutes. This could easily have just been an innocent language barrier, but our experience so far has been that anyone who calls you “my brother” every second sentence has been a shady con man or over keen businessman looking to take us for all we’ve got. Perhaps it was because we were tired, but we somehow agreed (after extreme pressure) to let him take us around some sites the next day for what appeared to be quite a cheap sum of rupees.

He picked us up at 6am the next day, and we drove across the river to see the Taj at sunrise, which was so good so far. From there though, all he really wanted to do was take us to expensive commission paying shops and restaurants, and we ended up paying him at 9am just to get rid of him, even then he pressured us for a tip.

For here on in though, Agra was a enriching experience. We saw what is known as the “Baby Taj”, which is really an old tomb in a similar style, incredibly beautiful though. It’s a well kept grass area, and the building is white marble encrusted with semiprecious stones, and really peaceful non intrusive calming patterns. The centre of the tomb had an awesome echo effect.

In the afternoon Grant went off the catch a movie while I spent the time visiting the Agra Fort. Grant wanted to visit the Taj compound itself the next day, which is pretty expensive so decided to save money and miss the Fort.

The Fort itself is absurdly large from the outside, with walls about ten metres high and three metres thick, and enclosing an area about 2km squared. The inside used to be filled with historic buildings, however we have the British to thank for leveling about 75% of these and replacing them with Barracks during an Indian Uprising, known as, the “Indian Uprising” :).

The Fort interior is still impressive though (the Army parts are closed off of course), housing some 16 Palaces, Gardens, Mosques etc. There’s also a tower there where the King who had the Taj built was imprisoned for the last eight years of his life (by his own son). The tower had a nice view of the Taj, which was also to become his Tomb. The Taj by the way, is actually a Tomb for this Kings wife (I forget his name sorry). He had the Taj built for her after she died, as a symbol of his love, and even went to the extent of removing the fingers of the craftsman involved in the construction, such that the feet couldn’t be replicated (nice guy). The Fort also contained a centuries old air conditioning system that we (apparently) still haven’t been able to figure out. It worked with three different levels of water towers somehow.

The following day, Grant was up before dawn to see the Taj compound for sunrise, so hell no doubt update this site with his memorable day there when he gets a chance. I instead took a bus about 40km out of Agra to visit the old Palace of “Akbar the Great”. The Palace, which has been restored and is thus in good condition, is surrounded the ruins of an old city. Akbar had the city built and planned as his new capital, and moved thousands of people there, but they had built the city too far from water, and were plagued by water shortages, so had to abandon it in less than a decade. The Palace is quite fascinating because Akbar was renowned for his efforts to overcome the religious friction between the various faiths of the time. One aspect of this was his invention of a new religion that combined Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Muslim, Christian and Judaism. Quite an ambitious project it would seem, but in his attempts to do so, he built his Palace and Temples combining symbology and architecture from all religions. Thus, there are Mosques with lotus flowers and Catholic domes etc. He also married three wives, one Christian, one Buddhist and one Muslim, and built them all little Palaces in their appropriate styles within his Palace compound. One last feature of the area of note is a tunnel that runs between his Palace, the Agra Fort and the Taj, thats 40Km underground!. Thus they used horses to travel underground, and had to build air vents all along the tunnel.

By the way, this was where I was lucky enough to encounter the keen salesman tactics mentioned earlier. You definitely get used to so serious persistence from people trying to sell you everything, but at the settlement outside the Palace it became silly. There were about seven shops all selling mostly soft drinks and smokes, and every time you walk within shouting distance, your attention is drawn by people offering you this and that, this is normal for India though. While attempting to walk past these shops, a guy selling a chess set and a kid trying to sell some postcards followed me for more than 20 minutes trying to sell me their wares. Every five seconds, it was no, no thankyou etc etc etc, but it just seemed like they were convinced I’d crack and buy everything at some point. I had to get slightly angry before they stopped and we finally talked about something else, but as soon as voices were calm again, it was back to the chess set and postcards!

On our last full day in Agra, we left the city to the a smaller town nearby that we thought had a Lord Krishna festival going on. In fact, there was no festival, but we ended up in a small town where English was hardly understood, and it was worth the trip. It is slightly famous, as Krishna apparently held up a mountain here, and also stole some cloths of some people while they were swimming (when he was a little brat of course), so some Hare Krishna and Hindu pilgrims still come here sometimes. We ate some food and visited a Krishna temple, then had to hop back on the Rickshaw to ensure we made the bus connection, so most of the day was spent travelling (and standing) on a bus.

We just made the train from Agra to Delhi, running down the platform with our packs and leaping on the train as it zipped away, I’m sure we would have missed it if we were ten seconds later. We had to take the first carriage we could, so we didn’t get to use our sleeper class tickets. Another fun ride in general….


The Indian Shave

Simon writes:

  1. Sit down and relax, read the paper for a while
  2. Get your chin and cheeks smothered in shaving cream, and then proceed to enjoy a five minute face massage.
  3. Get shaved, with one of those old style 50’s detective movie manual blades (cool!). Talk about cricket and Bollywood movies while this is being done.
  4. Stop for a complimentary chai tea (still with shaving cream on half your face). Talk about cricket and Bollywood movies while your drink the tea.
  5. Finish getting your face shaved. Have another lot of shaving cream applied to your chin and cheeks.
  6. Have your faced shaved again with one of those old 50’s style detective movie blades (still cool!). This is the double super close shave. Who needs Gillette sensor double blade action, we have manual double blade action here in India. Talk about cricket and Bollywood movies while this is being done.
  7. Thank your generous Indian barber and pay an pricey 50 cents for his troubles.
  8. Rub your chin and grin, closest dam shave I ever had!.

Photos of India part 1

Well I know I’ve been a bit slack with my share of the journal entries of late (I blame it all on Blogger of course) but to compensate I thought I’d post a small selection of photos from our travels in India for your viewing pleasure. This is just half a film of eight – so there’s loads to come but you may have to wait until I reach civilisation (read: my iBook & a fast connection) before you see too many more. Hope you enjoy.


One night in Gangtok and the world's your oyster

Simon writes:

This is a bit out of sequence sorry, Gangtok was back in Sikkim a few weeks ago, we just didn’t get around to writing anything about it until now sorry. It was back in the glorious days of the hills, where it was nice and cool…hmmmmm.

Gangtok is the capital of Sikkim, and Sikkim is one of only two districts in India where the beer is tax free, so thats a good start!.

The hotel we stayed at there was fantastic. Due to the fact that we are on the low season for India, and also because of the SARS scare, we are often finding ourselves virtually alone in the Hotels, but it’s often cheap, and I guess it means were getting a pretty Indian experience as there few foreigners to interact with.

In the guest house in Gangtok, there were some Tibetan monks staying there performing a three day rite which involved lots of chants and playing of horns and gongs. Lucky for us, they let us sit in and watch, the music alone really drew you in, and the chanting would alternate between soft tones and harmonies. They would slowly make their way through a huge set of scripture cards, and from what we could see, it appeared it would take days to get through them all.

On the third day we took a Landover up the hill to a sacred lake, which is 12500 feet up (higher than Mt Cook!). There was no snow though, as it’s still comparatively hot in these parts, although this would be one of the first times we were actually cold in India. The lake is surrounded by Tibetan prayer flags, and incredibly serene. Big decorative Yak’s are being led around waiting for tourists to hop on for a ride, and the clouds were covering the surrounding peaks and often descending down to the lake itself, obscuring the views but adding to the mystical atmosphere.

The area is also has a really heavy military presence, as it’s only 17km from the Chinese border, and China does not recognise Sikkim as part of India. Foreigners aren’t allowed to go any closer to China unfortunately.

Other memories from Gantok were a visit to another temple which was again a school for young monks, and watching a Bollywood blockbuster called “Chalte Chalte”. The movie is the usual Bollywood three hour epic (with an intermission – yea!), and the actors periodically break into song and dance. It was mostly in Hindi of course, but being a classic love story, I’d say we understood the plot perfectly. It was surprising to see them break into English quite frequently, and I don’t think this was for the sake of the English audience, it’s more simply a common habit of Indians, and kind of implies an educated and higher social standing. The product placement was also pretty obscene!.

The last thing to mention, for anyone that likes cards was our discovery of Canasta! (we were taught by a Australian Canasta enthusiast). Both Grant and myself have tried to learn this with Bec’s from her games book when in NZ some time ago, and we got it mostly right, but misunderstood a few little key aspects that really made the game. I now think it’s the best dam card game ever!.

Here’s a link to the rules, enjoy!

Canasta Rulz!



Simon writes:

If you see a classic postcard from India, or a holiday brochure, theres a good chance it’s one of the images will be crowds of Indians zipping down the Ghats (riverside temples, with steps leading down to the water) for an early morning dip. It is believed that bathing in the Ganges will cleanse one of sin, and it is also believed that if you are lucky enough to be cremated in Varanasi, will be free from the cycle of birth and death. Thus, it’s also a city where people come to die and be cremated at one of the Ghats. Most historic Hindu kings came here to die, and many built their own palace/hospice for the occasion, so some of these remain alongside the river. One of the boatman we met told us there are 365 Ghats, and one should ideally live here at least one year and bath in a different one every day. One other odd aspect of Varanasi is that it seems to be completely built up on one side of the Ganges, and almost completely farmland on the other side.

We arrived from our sleeper train at the station, which is about 13-17km from Varanasi itself. Some friendly policeman which we had met on the train were nice enough to offer us a ride with them to the city, thus freeing us from the standard procedure of attempting to negotiate a price less than five times the “Indian Person” price. What this actually entailed however was them catching a ride with our auto-rickshaw and us paying for it!.

The driver dropped us at a copy cat guest house of the one we wanted, but didn’t notice until too late, it is was pretty nice and cheap anyway. Varanasi quickly turns into a maze of alleyways and it’s pretty easy to get lost going only a few hundred metres. Just as we turned towards our guest house, a nice big bull rounded the corner and started quickening it’s pace. There are cows and bulls everywhere in India so I’m told, but this is probably the most urban we had seen them thus far. They are used to people, so it was probably only because we started running back a bit faster that it started running at us a bit faster still. Tense moment, but he scuttles in the other direction at the next bend thank goodness. I had visions of saving myself by impaling my pack over his big horns and running away, thank yee that I didn’t have to put that masterful strategy to the test!

One of the highlights of Varanasi was a supreme dawn boat ride experience along the Ganges where we watched the town wake up, and the activity along the Ghats slowly increase as people went for their early morning dips. There is also a temple there where the Hindu monkey god Hanuman is worshiped (there are of course many others like this all over India). It was inspiring to see the way people here really get down and have a good time when worshiping their Gods, Hanuman at least. Dozens of people were dancing around, singing and clanging bells and gongs. The temple is also, appropriately, inhabited but numerous monkeys, and these monkeys are of course considered holy because they live in Hanumans temple. The trip ended in a visit to a silk “factory” which turned out to be nothing more than an extremely persistent and high pressure sales environment. He even used the line that because we were his first customers, it would be bad for his future lives if we didn’t buy some silk! (special low low price, of course).

Thirty hours were spend our Varanasi guest house being extremely sick. Both Grant and myself were struck down with something that came with all the usual Asain travel illness unpleasentries, but after 30 hours we were right as rain. It was a cheap couple of days at least!. There’s nothing like a Indian massage on the banks of the Ganges to perk you up when you felling better, but just as my guy started, he proudly proclaimed that he’d had “no shower of bath for 20 years!”.

Fortunately he mean he’d bathed in the Ganges every morning instead, phew!. Good karma for him.

Theres an old 17th century Fort just up from Varanasi that we visited (transport was by boat – yea!). It had a huge collection of gigantic bongs and old weapons. There were classic pictures of the old Kings and their courts, all posing is fine garments, with head high bongs proudly the centre of the photographs!. The Fort also housed some very strange old weapons, like a sword and spear with pistol’s built into them, and rifles about three and a half metres long that, to use, would surely need a stand, or at least a few men working together.

We were lucky enough to meet a fantastic family who make Indian traditional instruments, apparently their family has been doing this for 400 years. They invited us to their home and we were entertained by some pretty crisp Sitar playing. There is a restaurant not far from where we stayed during our last night that also has classic Indian music during the evenings, and it was here that the talent was obscene!. One night, a superb Sitar player raced around the Sitar like an absolute legend, and his 14 your old cousin almost out him to shame with his tabla skills!. They had a CD, so I hope it’s as good as their live performance but it may have to wait until the UK before the CD finds a CD player (this is not because India doesn’t have them by the way, just because we don’t have one). Today I had a brief table lesson with the musician mentioned above, a good intro, but it’s difficult to learn much in an hour, especially when I can’t speak Hindi.

It will be a bit of a shame to leave Varanasi as it’s been a real highlight. Our next stop, Khajurano, is apparently laden with erotic statues and carvings, so it shouldn’t be too disappointing.



Simon writes:

Peeling was our last destination in Sikkim. Sikkim is by the way, a small area of India right between China-Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. It’ still an area not recognised by China, so the army presence there is huge (see GANGTOK).

Peeling is quiet in comparison to other Sikkim villages (cities really, by NZ standards, at least population wise). The ride to Peeling was exceedingly bumpy and high, and the clouds were swamping us, but the view was serene, if not panoramic.

One of the main highlights of Peeling was a visit to a Tibetan temple. In fact, the temple was a Hindu temple, but was occupied by Tibetan monks, and was also a school for young monks. These monks often commit themselves (are are committed) to the service of Buddhism from as young as six, and they all expected to be monks for the rest of their lives.

This particular temple is famous for it’s eight feet high wood carving, which a previous Abbot painstakingly made over a period of five years. The carving is huge and really detailed, and kind of depicts heaven and hell. It has about five layers, and the hell-heaven bits seem to overlap. Parhaps even more memorable was the paintings, which covered all aspects of the temple. Being Hindu, many of the more common deities were depicted, including the more nasty of them, such as the god Kali, who is usually seen standing on humans, wearing human skulls as a necklace, and looking just a little peeved off.

Something new to us both were the beautiful wall paintings of people copulating. This included demon like creatures, and also Krishna himself with a woman, even while he meditated!.

Other highlights were a pretty cheap one day package tour we indulged in, which took us to a sacred lake, some waterfalls (just like NZ ones, only spicy), a big high bridge, and the temple again. Outside of the tour an afternoon was spent visiting the ruins of the old Sikkim capital.

Of course, the most important event in Peeling was the great festival of my birthday!. The occasion was unfortunately forgotten by all parties, myself included, until it was already over NZ time. Fortunately a few hours remained of the Indian day, so all was not without hope. A big thanks to Grant for organising a few beers and a cake (Indian style – a pancake with banana, jam and candles). We shared these with some travellers we had met from Israel, so thanks to all for the good times.

Speaking of beers, we were lucky enough to sample some of the Sikkim special brew called Chang (not to be confused with the Thai Chang beer). We had heard tales of this drink, and went on the hunt, however found all the restaurants that normally served it closed. Luckily for us, a family invited us into their home, and prepared some for us, so a big thanks to Peeling hospitality!.

The unique drink comes in a small wooden barrel, and is filled to the brim with millet grains. You have a hot pot of water, and poor the water into the mix, then proceed to drink the Chang with a straw. You keep filling it up and it gradually becomes weaker. I don’t think it compares to a good old chilled NZ beer, but the process is dam fun!.

On the way home there were fireflies everywhere, and these little insects are so mesmerizing to watch flying around in the dark, and made the walk home quite physadelic (maybe the Chang helped too).

The last memorable detail from Peeling was the trip out, which was a great introduction to Indian transport during the monsoon season. The road we were supposed to travel along had a mudslide, so we had to take an alternate route, which then also had a mud slide. The jeep then got a flattie, and we had to return to the nearest city and swap jeeps. The replacement was conveniently a smaller jeep designed only for the short trip between Peeling and Leking. So, at one point we had 17 people on this jeep designed for about 8! Anyway, we ended up making our train with about an 45 minutes to spare, covering the 90 or so kilometres to Silligori in a hasty nine hours.



Everyone wants a piece of you in India. You can’t escape it. Let someone point you in the right direction and they’ll ask you for money. Let someone take you to a guesthouse and you’re asking for it. Even when you take off your shoes to enter a temple they’ll be waiting for you on exit turned around so you can slip straight into them – but for a fee. It’s amazing how friendly and helpful people are, it’s just disappointing that they will invariably always ask you for money, or to buy something for them at some stage, it’s a reality you just have to learn to accept.

But these are desperate people. An hour (or day) or two helping you, or nagging you, or whatever, is worth it for the chance they’ll get something out of it in the end.

At Howrah railway station in Kolkata after several minutes of ‘persuasion’ I finally let a young boy shine my shoes (sandals actually) for 10 rupees. Although I didn’t think this was over generous (10 rupees = about 40 NZ cents) he proceeded to follow me and Simon for a couple of kilometers with a sad desperate look on his face in the hope that a man with such wealth could spare a little more. He even followed us half way over the Howrah bridge – the biggest in India also said to be the busiest bridge in the world (it’s a pretty cool bridge actually). Sure I felt stink about it but you give money every day – sometimes 200 rupees or more – and you’ve just got to make a call between who really wants it and who actually needs it.

One of the biggest problems in India is the educational system. The public schooling is shite – ask anyone in India, especially the kids. The teachers have no motivation for teaching well – or even turning up sometimes – and the schools are ridiculously under funded. There’s a lot of corruption here, especially in the government and that trickles all the way down the line, it doesn’t leave much for the people on the last rung. There’re very few India families who can afford public school for their children, the only real chance for a decent education, the others have to hope for sponsorship from abroad. In Bodhgaya the public school is so hopeless I meet two kids who just refused to go, they didn’t trust it to teach them anything. Instead they hang out of the streets hoping to latch onto the odd tourist and charm some dosh out of them, or play the tourism game earning the occasional bit of commission for hooking you up with a guesthouse or some local transport. All the time they’re improving their English (or another foreign language) as they go. It’s easy to see why they do it really.


Blogger pulls!

A week or two ago they changed their whole system over and now I can’t publish this journal to my site any more – stink!

There’s probably is a way around it but these things are hard to sort out when you’re travelling, so in the meantime i’m having to post it on this nasty blogspot site with all these ads. Sorry in advance for broken links from this site, it’ll take me a while to weed them out at snail pace shared Indian modem speed.



Simon writes:

The train from Kolkata took about 12 hours, but it was a sleeper train so you can try and get some rest on it. The touts have no qualms in walking up and down the carriages, wacking their coke bottles with a spoon to try and get your attention though, even if everyone is pretending to be asleep. It was then a bumpy and squashed bus ride up into the ranges to Darjeeling, but the views were increasingly astonishing, and it was finally getting cooler, yea!

Darjeeling itself is about 2,100 metres up, and on a clear day has incredible views of the Himalayas and surrounding countryside. The temperature is pretty much like a New Zealand summer, and there was much rejoicing.

The link below has some photo’s if your interested. There not actually ours, as we haven’t got anything onto digital format as yet.

By the way, just upon entering town, we passed a hotel with a sign saying…

“Hotel Gay Lords” (??!!!?!?!)

I think they chose the wrong words for Hotel Happy Kings!

Upon arriving we promptly got out our lonely planet map and proceeded to get completely lost. We met an extremely friendly and smiley pair of traffic police who played us a traditional song on the Guitar. One trait of Indian people appears to be their preference to say “yes” instead of “I don’t understand”. The Lonely Planet bible actually talks about this, but it was still surprising to experience the truth and consistentness of the habit. The traffic police conversation (after the happy song of course) went something like ,

“Where are we on the map please?”
“arhhh, yes. here”
“So, how do we get to here?”
“Arrr, yes, that way (points)”
“Ohh, so does this mean we are actually here??? (pointing to a a different place on the map)”
“Arr, yes”
“Ohh, can we just go up there then?? (A different way, that seems to make sense on the map)
“Arr, yes”
“Sooo, this way, that way”
“yes, yes”

Anyway, we can’t speak a word of Indian, so appreciate the help anyway, even if it just makes us more confused.

The Guest house itself was one of the best we’ve stayed in yet. Called the “Tower View Lodge”, it had incredible views (there was no tower in the view), lots of travellers staying there, games, beers and cool staff.

One of the days in Darjeeling was spent visiting the small Zoo and Himalayan Mountaineering center, were we got to read lots about Sir Edmunds himself (as well as lots of others of course). We also visited a Tibetan Refugee Self Help centre, which is essentially a community of exiled Tibetans who live and work together, producing Tibetan arts and crafts which they sell to sustain themselves.

We couldn’t leave without attending an Indian Disco, so one evening plodded along to “Purple”. Disco’s are huge in India, and are a stark contrast to a New Zealand dance party or rave scene. For one thing, a Disco is a family affair, and the dance floor is populated with young and old alike, all pulling out their latest dance maneuvers (which put Grant and myself to shame, so we watched instead ! ). The music was a massive mix of western covers like “Jump!” and Santana, and Indian/Western Hybrid songs, which included the occasional hard core electronica track (then to be followed by a Santana cover, a really eclectic mix of sounds). The place was extremely American, and the decor included a full size American army jeep, electric guitars, an Easy Rider and NBA posters, and a huge American flag. The disco also had fully armed guards both outside and in, because of the highly American theme?

As I type this, we are in Sikkim, which is further north. Just across the road, there’s a room in the guest house we are saying in, and everyday, a group of Tibetan monks get together for a couple of hours to chant, bash gongs and blow horns. They just went through a hugh climax where they are all yelling a woo hooing. Fantastic!