25th March, 2009
Jeez! So anyway, I had a pretty good dayand all. But I also had a pretty good day yesterday. That would be:
24th March, 2009
Woke up around 6:45 or so, and went back to sleep for a bit, then packed and went down to the restaurant for breakfast. I had a super chat with Alex, a waitress from London. I can’t remember what part she came from, but she worked in a French Restaurant. Went to the Internet to book aflight from Katmandu through to Mumbai, but that wasn’t an optionon the Ait India site, so I took an autorickshaw to the Air India office, but the guy took me to a regular travel agent. Not the first time this has happened. Anyway, I booked a flight from Katmandu to Delhi and then on to Mumbai, getting into Mumbai, I think around 9 or 10 on the 31st. My return flight for Yemen is on the 1st of April, then my return ticket to Addis Ababa is for the 2nd. I have a flight for Caito on the 5th, but I’m gonna check out whether I can go overland to Egypt through the Sudan. Once again, my stupid Mastercard wouldn’t let me buy an airline ticket. I was 500 rupees short and I had to take a rickshaw to an ATM. The guy wanted to wait for me, but then wanted to take me to the wrong train station, and then tried to talk me into taking a taxi to Boadhgaya for 8,000 rupees. I really had to dig in my heels to tell him to take me to the Varanasi Junction Station, which he reluctantly and finally did. Even then, he wanted to wait for me and I paid him and told him not to wait around.
So get this: I saw a Tourist help center in the station and figured they could find out which train number I had to book for the 4:00 for Gaya. Anyway, he served some people, and then it was my turn, so I went up and he told me to wait. Then the guy who had been ahead of me came back and booked another ticket. He finished doing that and I went up again and he told me to wait again. SO I waited, and they ticket guy counted his money about 6 times, served someone else after telling me to wait again. So guess what? I missed the deadline to book a reserved ticket. By 8 minutes! I did manage to get the train number from him and went back out to the regular ticket center and booked a general seating seat for the same train.
What an experience that was. Therre wer no signs helping say which platform the train was arriving. The announcements, were pretty good, except every once in a while somone would speak over the announcements in Hindi, about something or another. Then as my train was arriving, another train came in and drowned out the platform number, then another train came in, and one voice over blanked the platform number. Not to mention the guys that sell stuff on the platform yelling at the tops of their voice. I finally figured it was platform 6 and managed to get there before the train left. Guess What, tho? It was really cramped, and I had to push my way on just as the train began to move and stand between two carriages. It’s more like “riding” a train, the plates shift constantly, and it’s kinda like standing on the back of a live animal. It’s a very organic experience. Not bad except I got a big black grease strip down the back of my shirt. Two stations down, they added two carriages, and I managed to get a seat for the trip to Gaya. The train was quite late and I didn’t get into Gaya until 11:30. It’s 23 kilometers to Bodhgaya from there, so I had to push my way past about a hundred rickshaw drivers who thought I should go right away. Thankfully, there was a hotel right across from the train station. 550 rupees. The porter wanted a tip for carrying the key up to the door but I tol him I didn’t have any change on me. He asked me again when he brought some soap and a towel to the room. I went downstairs and had a reasonable chicken marsala with Kashmiri rice, but the chicken must been really scrawny in its previous life. By this time it was midnight, and I watched TV, but the channel changer only worked up and not down, and I went to sleep. I got up late had a toasted jam sandwhich and tea for breakfast, and checked out.
I caught an autorickshaw for Badhgaya, stopped and bought a couple of SD cards for my camera (300 rupees each). He only had two or I would have bought a couple more. The guy took me to the Laxshm Hotel. A bit pricey, but 700 rupees. Still, the remote control for the TV didn’t work and I had to MANUALLY change the channels. I moved the TV closer to the bed. I went to visit th bodhi tree. Nice, but I don’t think it’s THE GENUINE BODHI TREE, or a descendant thereof. You see, The tree is only about 115 years old. They say that Emperor Ashoka's wife destroyed the actual tree out of jealousy since he devoted too much time on the The Bodhi Tree. Later on, another Bodhi Tree was planted at the very spot by using its sapling taken from Sri Lanka. Historical records say that Sanghmitra, the daughter of king Ashok took one branch of Bodhi Tree to Anuradhapur and planted it which still exists at Anuradhapur. So that tree could have been decended from the original, but it’s kinda like the sacred relics of the saints in Europe: some of them have more than one head…
So anyway, I gathered up some bodhi leaves for souvenirs from beneath the tree and went and sat down to stick them in my notebook, and a dog came and sat beside me, then decided to sit underneath me. It was kinda weird cause he just walked into the temple area and then walked over to me and sat down. I sat for a while, and hurt a guy from Vancouver’s feelings by saying Canadians and Americans are almost the same thing. I shoulda probably told him people from Vancouver didn’t really have any more connection to the rest of Canada as they did to America. But I didn’t. Cause the Buddha said that would be bad.
I stopped at a souvenir shop to admire a dancing Tara bronze and bought some beads from the guy. Gave him 100 rupees to take a picture of the figurine cause it was 8,500 Rs. which I could probably afford, but it weighed so much it would have cost a fortune to ship. Still, it was really nice, and I came really close to buying it. I have to remember I’m only half way through my trip.
I took some pictures and walked back to the hotel but the restaurant was closed due to the cook’s day off, but the desk guy told me I should eat at the Ohm Restaurant, which I did. My table had a buncha ants on it, and just after I finished eating the scrawny chicken meal, two cockroaches crawled on top of the table from underneath it. Freaked me out. And the guy at the table beside me. That’s cause I was so surprised I flicked them off my table by reflex and one of them landed on his table, and he didn’t know it was because I’d flicked it there. It just kinda landed right in front of him.
I bought a cloth Bodhgaya shoulder bag to replace the President’s Choice cloth shopping bag I have cause I figured I wouldn’t have to hold it. Wrong! It keeps slipping off my shoulder. Bugs me. Anyway, I came back to the hotel, and figured out the time I had left and it looks like the trip to Katmandu will take 3 days, so I have a picture of the Bodhi tree, some genuine bodhi leaves (not the fake dried ones they sell you along the Buddhist Amusement Mall beside the Mahabodhi Mahavihar Temple) and I’d better head out for Patna tomorrow. I can catch the train to near Nepal the day after tomorrow from there!