i thought i would write a little about my recent trip to india, especially after having gleaned a lot of info from other blog and forum posts in my research prior to the trip.
i went on this trip with 3 other friends. one of the friends is from bangalore, and he was with us for most of the trip. in fact, he was the main reason the rest of us even decided to travel to india. the rest of us had never been to india.
we were very lucky to have our indian friend with us for our first time. my friend put it nicely by saying that because our indian friend was "not panicking" (i.e., just acting normally) in situations that were new to us, we didn't feel any need to be anxious. having that anchor in such a new place enabled us to travel with more ease, with a lot less worry; and we definitely felt a difference when we parted ways for the last parts of our trip.
i imagine it would be pretty intimidating to visit india for the first time alone, which i know a lot of people on indiamike have done or want to do. even though i didn't go through that, i hope that i can still offer some useful advice for solo travelers.
anyway, here was our itinerary:
travel dates were jan 9, 2013 to jan 23, 2013. our indian friend was with us for bangalore through sikkim.
everything you've heard about the water is probably true. i say "probably" because none of us got sick. to ask for bottled water, we simply asked for "bisleri", which is a brand of bottled drinking water (it's akin to asking for kleenex, i suppose). have no qualms about asking for it, or even asking whether ice has been made from it. you won't always get bisleri-branded water; sometimes it will be aquafina, or something else. check that the bottle is sealed, and that the bottom of the bottle hasn't been punctured and resealed. our indian friend said to also look for the ISI logo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISI_mark). it's probably also wise to ask to open the bottle yourself - sometimes the waiter will open the bottle for you upon bringing it to your table.
i'd read that bottled water should be used when brushing teeth, and that the mouth and nose should be closed during showers. i did this for only the first half of the trip. then again, we only ever stayed at hotels that were pretty decent or better.
all of our hotels had western-style toilets; however, not all of them had shower stalls or bathtubs. instead, the whole bathroom itself serves as the shower stall. there is simply a drain in one corner of the room.
depending on the niceness of the hotel, you will usually have hot water. at our hotel in agra (raj mahal hotel), i had to ask them to turn on the hot water. does no one shower at night over there? geesh. anyway, it took about 25 minutes before i had hot water. at our friend's place in bangalore, there is a water heater in the upper corner of the bathroom that must be turned on; so if you see a heater-like contraption in a bathroom, you should probably make sure it's on if you want hot water.
all this talk about bathrooms reminded me of an observation i had about interior design. i usually felt cold and isolated in bathrooms, even in other living spaces. there's usually a lot of hard, dark, flat surfaces, because i guess they like using marble/granite for flooring and walls. you'll rarely feel cozy or even comfortable in such bathrooms. more often than not, you'll feel like you're showering in like a gym shower or something, where you're the only person there. maybe i'm crazy, but that's how i felt. one bathroom in particular freaked me out a little. it was at umaid mahal in jaipur. awesome hotel, freaky bathroom. black granite (or similar) walls and floors, dim lighting, exposed fan running right next to your head... it wasn't pleasant. all i needed was for the power to go out (not an uncommon occurrence), and i'd think i was getting abducted by aliens or some shit. plenty of hot water, though. anyway...
we used travisa outsourcing. it was more complicated than we thought it'd be, and we wished we had started sooner. thankfully it all went OK, but the lesson is to start early, at least a month in advance. follow the instructions on their website EXACTLY. make sure you take off your glasses for your passport photo. make sure your passport doesn't expire for at least over 6 months after your date of travel. etc etc. if you're going to sikkim like we did, make sure you indicate this on your application (they ask on the application). we did not do this, but by some stupid crazy luck, we were still able to get a permit at rangpo. basically the guy who was able to issue permits happened to be there because of some parade that was happening that evening. it's highly unlikely you'll be that lucky.
after reading the internets, i learned that you can get sim cards from vodaphone. you will need a passport photo. i believe availability changes on an ongoing basis, so check out this article on indiamike: http://www.indiamike.com/india-articles/buying-a-prepaid-sim-card-in-ind... data reception was terrible, and it seemed that going from one region of india to another incurred roaming. overall, the sim card experience was not good, albeit useful at times.
stuff to bring:
bring a guidebook or two. we used two different ones (PDFs on our kindles or cell phones). they helped us a lot for finding hotels and restaurants (a couple that come to mind right away are britto's restaurant on baga beach in old goa; and umaid mahal hotel in jaipur); and they provided info on various places we visited (e.g., various cathedrals in old goa). it's hard to get internet, so you'll have to do what tourists did when the internet didn't exist, and use a guidebook.
power outtages are somewhat common. bring a travel surge protector rated for 220V. another indian friend let us borrow his, and it proved to be super useful for us, especially since there was usually not enough outlets, and since we didn't want to have to buy a bunch of adapters.
depending on where you're going, you may encounter a bathroom that doesn't have toilet paper, like i did in the kolkata airport. or maybe you'll accidentally step in some dog shit; or step barefooted onto a toothpick at a beach in goa; or simply feel like you want to clean your hands. wet wipes are awesome for all these things and more, and they're very compact and easy to carry in your backpack or whatever.
i'm sure there's more stuff, but i'll continue later. i hope.
why haven't i been writing here?
i usually post little nothings, which are perfect for facebook.
the longer posts, which are usually more serious, fell by the wayside the more i used facebook. in fact, for a while, facebook imported my blog posts, which seemed fine at first, but then i realized that readers of my blog widened from you guys (kyle, mike, the random stranger who is lost on the internet) to over a couple hundred people. so, i felt like i had to censor myself. i don't categorize anyone on my facebook, so if you're my facebook friend, you see everything. it's fine for everyone to see my random bullshit, but i was less comfortable with everyone seeing anything else.
i'm not sure why i felt like i had to explain all that. no one gives a shit, and it doesn't really matter.
onto the more important stuff: why do i want to write more, all of a sudden?
two reasons. first, i feel like the part of my brain that puts thoughts into words has atrophied over time. it takes me longer to wordify things, and my diction has become garbage. i'm worried it'll get worse. i blame all forms of micro communication. i'm surprised i haven't heard of this being a problem or concern with kids nowadays (note: i have not actually done a search to find any such indication).
secondly, lots of my thoughts remain in a blobulous state until i write them down. i would like my thoughts to be more concrete in my mind.
it's pretty late, so i won't write anything else right now. man, i hope i don't end up NOT writing more. this would be the lamest post ever.
(10:59:24 PM) wuziq: my parents are watching a depressing movie on history channel
(10:59:29 PM) wuziq: it's such a downer
(11:04:54 PM) MiK3LL1: go up to the tv. turn it off. then tell then stop fuckin watching this depressing shit
(11:05:45 PM) wuziq: LOL
here's my comment on this poll on banning smoking outdoors:
cigarette smoke is one of the few things that i really hate. i actually get angry every time i smell it, except when i'm in a place where it's "expected", such as in a casino.
the main issue is that not all smokers are nice enough to realize that there are people who just don't want to smell cigarette smoke. i've seen smokers who are considerate, who go to a distant corner of the parking lot away from others (first time i saw this, i wanted to thank the dude), but there are plenty of others who don't do this.
have you ever driven behind a smoker who had their windows rolled down? i am jolted from my otherwise normal driving experience. i have to roll up my windows and put my A/C on recycle mode. why don't they just leave the smoke in their cars?
if it's not clear yet, i don't have an issue with people smoking, but, WHY INFLICT IT ON OTHERS? you're making other people hate you. that is the issue.
another car example. have you ever driven next to someone blaring music that you hate? sure, it's ok for them to play it, but geez, keep it in your car. if i wanted to listen to it, i would be inside your car.
surely smokers can understand. but if they simply want to "exercise their right", making others PUT UP with THEIR choice.. then yeah, you're going to have people who want to ban smoking everywhere.
in conclusion: no further bans, but apt complexes and condos, etc, should have their own bans. but dammit, if i have to keep taking measures to preserve my immediate airspace cuz of inconsiderate smokers, i'd be more likely to support more extensive bans.
what are your thoughts?
have you ever noticed this?
when you open the volume control in windows (by double clicking on the speaker icon in the sys tray), the panning slider is selected by default.
if you're not careful, and you scroll with your mouse scroller, thinking that you're adjusting the volume, you'll mess up the panning. then you'll have to commence the painstaking process of setting the pan exactly at center. ok, maybe it's just painstaking for me.
anyway, i think it'd be better if the master volume slider were selected by default instead. it would save a click or a tab when you open volume control.. not to mention that hardly anyone needs to adjust panning.
today, i went out to lunch with my parents at a chinese restaurant.
we don't typically go out for chinese, because the closest chinese restaurant that is halfway decent is a far drive for my parents, out in bonsall. the only reason we went to this restaurant today is because my parents are friends with the manager there, although he wasn't there today, and because it's a new restaurant.
anyway, we get seated by the manager that IS there. she is friendly and stuff, and notices my parents speaking in taiwanese as they discuss the menu items. so they strike up a conversation, and finally we get to the point of this post.
the manager warns us that this restaurant caters to white people. for those of you who aren't aware, this means that the food is generally saltier and sweeter. my parents were already aware of this, and it wasn't too big of a deal for them; they typically ask waiters at other "chinese" restaurants to cook our food so that it's more suited for the asian palate. the manager said that she'll ask the cook to use less sauce, so that it's less salty and sweet. that was nice of her.
we get our food and begin eating. couple bites into it, i'm thinking, huh.. it's aiiiight. but by the end, i was struggling with how salty and sweet it was. despite the reduction in sauce, the meal verged on intolerable. i had had the same dish before at my parents' friend's own restaurant, and it was pretty darn good - not sweet at all, because that would just be weird, and very flavorful (steak with a strong black pepper taste). here, it was a total disappointment.. bland.. and salty and sweet.
but enough about that. after the meal, i was thinking.. whose idea was it to "cater to white people"? why would you want to be THAT restaurant? there are plenty of other asiany restaurants that already do that, and do a better job at it. if you offered authentic chinese cuisine, those with discriminating taste would recognize it and tell their friends about it. people would hear about "the restaurant that serves real chinese food", and want to try it themselves.. if not for the food, then at least for the ability to talk to their friends about how they were the only white people at the restaurant. here is an opportunity for a restaurant to stand out, to serve food that is actually meaningful, and they totally missed the mark. it's not like chinese food is a new thing anymore. if you're a chinese restaurant that caters to "white people's taste", you're just showing that you're out of touch with reality, that you don't believe in your own product, that you don't have anything to offer. you're showing that you're confused about your core values, that you're unclear about what you want to do. it's such a narrow-minded and lazy idea anyway, to just make everything saltier and sweeter. aren't there better ways to make your food more accessible to a wider audience than to simply add salt and sugar? geez! you've ruined every dish with potential, you've alienated asians, you're trying to please a hypothetical audience of white people in love with salty and sweet food.. arrgghh i'm so frustrated thinking about how wrong they got it!!
after eating there, i felt sorry for my parents' friend. i would be surprised to see that place stay in business for long. but hey, they've got other stuff, too.. like a karaoke bar............
it is super clean and fast, and automatically replaces notepad when installed. i like it over notepad++. if you want tabbed notepads, though, which i don't like, then notepad++ is for you.
sadly this is a novel concept for some.
mason: hey, where do you live again?
me: UTC area..
mason: so, how come you haven't invited me over yet for steak dinners? and cuddles?
or just view the slideshow..