some may ask, where are tom and joel these days? well here, you can find out.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Holi and other irrelevant stuff

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Holi was even more colourful than i expected, to start with at least, after a few hours everybody became a muddy red. When surveying the territory from the roof, you could see every rooftop to the horizon was full of people, bombing other buildings, bombing themselves, bombing us with tiny plastic bags bulging with colourful liquid.


150 bags later, when we had finally felt successful with the amount of litter and stains we had caused to the surrounding buildings, me and Jamel (James, in english) ventured into closer combat, where we met a gang from a hotel down the road, armed with water guns, buckets, bottles, bombs, and a great variety of colours. They were currently in reciept of an attack from a middle school further on, so we helped them fight off the 5 foot army. Another procedure of being enrolled in this tourist mob (literally), was to control any traffic coming through the lane. For the (most likely expecting) unarmed driver/pedestrian there was no way to get through the chain of rainbow highwaymen, and so after a few seconds of miniature Sony advert style explosions the passer by was soaked.



after the fighting, a bunch of us escaped into the mountains on bikes to drink beer. This is Jamel.

I've been eating banana pancakes for breakfast almost every day, and the same for mango juice. Best juice i've ever had on it's own, even better than cranberry.

Booked to go bungee tomorrow, at a place called 'The Last Resort'. Afterwards there is a party overnight there, sauna, live bands, something called the 'Love Lounge' (?), and lots of food. I expect, a party like this hosting a bunch of young adrenaline junkies fresh from the fall should be brill.

My friend from the hostel, Adrian, or Indra as the Nepalese call him, is going east with his NGO to do some assesments with a school. It just so happens that a previous Miss Teen of Nepal is joining him, intent, perhaps, on hitting it big with the title of Miss Nepal. When we told Navin (hotel manager, but more of a friend), he was flabbergast. Apparently she's very famous, magazine model, etc. Am very jealous now, could have gone with them as they needed an extra person, but instead of spending the weekend with one of the most beautiful and intelligent people in Nepal, I'm plunging off a 150 metre high bridge. Will let you know how it goes before i leave for Tokyo...

Elections happen a week after i leave, which is slightly frustrating, if they had not been cancelled about twice they would be prime for photography. perhaps riots, police, danger, etc. Instead i only get photos like this. note the maoist flags up at the top. and how over exposed it is. pah.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

excerpts from the last week

the lounge, taken with my awful kit lens. wish i had a good wide angle lens.

Thursday 13th - We are currently sitting around the lounge, from close by I can hear blues weaning its way out of the speakers on the bookshelf, from far away i can hear many different types of birds chirrping the afternoon away, from even further blustering thamel. The warm air is not overwhelming as is it cleared aweay occasionally by the breeze running across the balcony. In itself the balcony is welcmoming and comfortable , its thatched roof provides shade and hides the metal sheet above that stops the rare occurence of rain.

Friday 14th - Didn't get up till 5 today. Felt very, very ill. Headache, stomach ache, backache, couch, cold, about every bluergh in the book. Of course I still managed to go out in the evening with some of the other hostels residents. One of our stops was the surreal OR2K, a fantastic restaurant where everyone sits on mats with low tables. The lighting consists of candles, hundreds of them, and a few UV lights. It works well, overall you have a natural light but with strange side effects, the string of a tea bag glows bright white. The menu was full of snacks and dishes perfect for the savoury munchies, bowls of different humouses with naan, panini bread stuffed with hot, melting mozerella, create your own 12" pizzas and these dense chocolate balls covered in coconut shavings.

view from the Nirvana rooftop. again taken with my dodgy lens, so its actually much, much nicer.

Saturday 15th - Again, some stomach problems. In the afternoon we all went onto the rooftop and ate watermelon, grapes and oranges in the hot sun, lazily throwing water on eachother. It was one of those moments that you could live in forever. Day only got better as i went to Helenas (best view of the city, and co-incidentally, best chocolate brownie of the city too) After this we descended on the bars, one of which was Mambo (i think, it might have been mungo, mumbo, bamboo, bombay) Lounge, a huge tent/marquee like place with low seating and the most talented live band i've seen in a long time. We drank lots of Mojitos and moved on to Full moon club, a very different affair, but the last place open. Dancing, spilling of drinks and no shoes were the obligations of the night.

Sunday 16th - Felt much better when i woke up this morning! Must have been the alcohol.

Monday 17th - Rained today. Felt very much back at home.

Tuesday 18th - Finally got email from Art Refuge people saying that some refugees had come to Nepal. So my days of ease might finally be at an end....
I love it how the nepalese always overdo it on the garlic side of garlic bread. You always get huge flavoursome chunks of it, and the bread is always soaked in the butter yet maintaining the outer crispiness and the soft doughy centre. Or maybe the british under do it. As you may see, i have had plenty of time to consider such matters. Its brilliant.

Wednesday 19th - Finally, today i went to the art refuge. Or close to it. it took me an hour to get there, in theheat, up hills and on the back of a motorbike of a stranger. Got there, the guard wouldn't let me in. Stood around for a while, then walked home. Have emailed them now, though.

Again, this was much longer than i intented. Oh well. If this art refuge thing doesn't fall through, might organise myself a trek or white water rafting.

again, the rooftop. very nice.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

The Nirvana Peace Home and Kathmandu

from Swayambhu, the 'monkey' temple. not meant to call it this, though. otherwise i get smited.

Now i see how so many people get sucked into Kathmandu, it's like a multistorey black hole, there's so many levels and ways of getting trapped here. In the heart there is Thamel, a backpackers heaven and hell, tiger balm touts at every corner, rickshaws wobbling by and hundreds of pashmina, yak wool and singing bowl shops. If this isn't what you came looking for, the dusty outskirts are perfect for exploring, there seems to be something different around every corner. I found a communist/socialist garden the other day, with naked people diving into the water and big red flags everywhere. Then of course there are the mountains, the hikes and walks which supposedly are some of the best in the world. Hopefully i should fit one in before i leave.

Decided to change my hotel, and immediatley found the perfect place, jsut around the corner, the 'Nirvana Peace Home'. Booked five nights on the spot. It's pretty much what you would expect from the name, a much more family type, locally run hostel, and smaller, which makes the guests feel like part of a family, or group of friends, rather than a paying foreigner. The lounge is the place to meet people, a bamboo covered balcony with chairs, rugs and low tables which surround a circular bookcase with cds and speakers. Only thing is, it's very, very hard to leave this place. Have already met plenty of fascinating people, one, for example is Benjamin, a french guy, dreadlocks, beard, looks a bit like Funky Jesus, who met Manu Chao playing guitar by a pool in argentina, got ordered by the Nepalese Princess to pull the rickshaw for him, and is currently building a mongolian yurt on the rooftop of his friends house. We went to see it. Currently only bamboo frame, but looks like a project and a half.

Momo is my food of the moment. The nepalese equivalent of Spains tapas, Chinas dimsum, or perhaps Englands digestive biscuits (?), its pretty much anything wrapped in a parcel which is either deep fried or steamed. Very delicious, very greasy, but i've found the more greasy they are the more delicious they tend to be. Have so far tried fried vegetable momo, fried chicken momo, fried buffallo momo, steamed vegetable momo and steamed buffallo momo. Steamed is much nicer.

I'm incredibly hungry now, and am going to get breakfast. Noodles i think.

again from Swayambhu, part of something going on there. i know not what.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Escape From Dehli: To Kathmandu!

Sitting in a cafe in Kathmandu, I can hear children chanting outside, I think it is either something to do with Holi, the festival of colour, or the political riots that went on here a few weeks ago, my new french family tells me.

To get here i decided to go by land, it was much cheaper and after buying a fantastic, if not slightly pricey blanket from the street markets back in Dehli it was probably a better idea. Some friends i made in Dehli, Hush and Lea, a indian and romanian couple who i had spent the last few days with showed me which train to get from New Dehli Station, and pointed out i was in sleeper class, the cheapest of them all. It's more exciting that way anyway, i met far more interesting people than i would have sitting next to 200 businessmen, and you get plenty of time, the journey took about 14 hours and with me getting about 2 hours sleep, conversation was necessary. A french family who live in the south of india were across from me, they were going to Kathmandu to take a holiday/renew their visas, so we teamed up to escape from india.

The train journey in the morning was beautiful, a complete contrast of the rush of Dehli. We could have been travelling through a scene from Jungle Book, with stretches of green fields that disappeared into the mist, and run down villages right next to the tracks. Had a rather strange, but much needed breakfast, then departed the train at Gorakhpur and found someone to take me and my new friends to the Nepalese border. The drive there was fantastic, leaning out of the window listening to dylan while our driver overtook everything in sight like a hormonal adolescent male with a fresh drivers license.

The drive once we had passed the border was even more spectacular, huge scaling mountains covered in greenery surrounded us while we meandered along skinny roads alongside a huge raging river. In the dark there was a bit of truck traffic, but it was rather fun watching everyone try to over take everyone who in turn was trying to overtake everyone else.

From what i have seen so far here, which is not much, i feel much more at home. I don't get so many funny looks, no-one is trying to sell me anything i don't want, and the weather is much cooler. But i have barely seen any of Kathmandu, so i'll leave it at that, as i have already written far too much.

Love, Tom.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Arrival in Delhi

Apologies for the many typos that are about to occur, this keyboard is very, very old and prone to sticking keys...

Delhi is pretty much exactly as i prepared myself for it to be, hot, constantly bustling, dirty but beautiful, and close to overwhelming.

The flight over was fabby, have never been on a super huge plane before so even that was a bit 'woah'. Was going to get some sleep, but with a masive range of newly released films to watch (+ free g&t), how could i? Ended up watched Juno, and most of No Country for Old Men. Both excellent.

Landed, queued up for ages, blah blah, got into a taxi which took me to Paharganj, the ultimate in budget tourism. Transport in India is manic, i havent been anywhere yet where i haven't heard honking every 3 seconds. We passed tiny motorbikes with famlies of 4 on, overtook tuk tuks through oncoming traffic and very nearly hit a cow lounging at the side of the road. It seems that a lot of people and animals simply lounge their time away at the side of motorways and roads. I love it.

It took me approx 1.5 hours to find the hostel, with no map and no road signs i blindly wandered around simply hoping to find it. Finally i befriended a boy who took me there, and to my pleasant surprise declined any money i offered him. Lovely. Got into my room and crashed, its a small room, but i get a double bed, there's a reasonably warm shower and its one of the cleanest places i've seen so far, so i'm happy.

The amount of people trying to get you to go somewhere, or buy something, is one fo the most overwhelming parts, eventually i got pulled into someones room to see some photographs, which turned out to be a place he wanted to take me, Kashmir, in the north of India. I was actually very tempted, but i said i'd think about it and took his advice to go and see the red fort. Which was huge. Massive. Had a little shufty around there, then crossed the road to see Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in india. Got given a short tour by two boys, who really seemed more interested in buying jeans.

Left the two boys, who were now involved in a deep conversation over the price of a fake nokia, then took a motor tuk tuk back to the area i was staying in. Took me another two hours to find my hostel again, through a lot of dark alleyways and bewildered looks. Finally (and very, very luckily) the Kashmir man spotted me and together we found the 'Smyle Inn'. Dropped some stuff off and went back to his for a meal of nann, paneer, caulfilower and other sorts of curry on his bedroom/kitchen/living room floor. His room is fantastic, it's his brothers actually, who owns a shop in Delhi, and so the whole room is covered in stock, little marble elephants, boxes shaped as turtles, cats, dolphins, bells hanging from the ceiling, carpets going up the wall. After more talk about Kashmir i escaped to go back to my hostel (which i found this time) , and promptly fell asleep.

At the moment it doesn't seem like any photos are uploading, which isn't really a big issue, none of them are very good, but i'll get some up next time i use a computer. Hopefully i wont write as much next time, either.

Love to all, Tom

edit- i managed to upload this one...