Saturday, March 22, 2008

From Goa to Hampi, India: Still laughing

Indian man enjoying the beaches of Goa

They say the only way to enjoy India is too expect nothing and just go with the flow. If you don’t keep your humor you will go crazy in this country.

After five days on the beaches in Goa I was ready to head inland for some Hindi temple ruins in the town of Hampi. I bought the best bus ticket I could find, an "air-conditioned sleeper" in a bus. The picture showed smiling tourists leisurely reclining in plush reclining seats with a level of blissfully sleeping travelers above in beds. I was to be one of those blissfully sleeping travelers---though I really couldn't imagine how a bus could have beds in it. The travel agent reassured me, "Very nice, very nice."

I had met a Brazilian backpacker in Goa and we decided to go together. This was very fortunate because he ended up saving me from two potentially horrible experiences. And I saved him from one horrendous one. Read on.

We had to wait an hour for the bus to arrive. I had noticed a vendor of Indian sweets and decided to get a box to try. I asked my friend if he’d like to halve the first sweet and he was keen. I broke the first sweet in half (middle left one in picture) and there it was, the perkiest piece of black pubic hair standing straight up from the middle of the sweet almost like it was saluting me. I showed the vendor and he gave me a different one, but had my friend not agreed to share it with me I'd have probably been pulling pubes out of my mouth. Sorry, I know it's disgusting and I hope your computer's anti-virus and parental controls accepted this blog entry. Now I learned especially in Bolivia to pull the accidental hair out of my food and still enjoy it, but not this time. I couldn’t touch the things.

Sweet, anyone?

Now the bus appeared, and drove right off without stopping. Was this our bus? Upon enquiry at the office they sent us running 200ft away to where it was parked, shouting, "Hampi wait! wait! Go quick quick. Bus go go.”

Take the oldest Greyhound you can imagine, make sure it hasn't been cleaned in at least 10 years, add a row of crusty horizontal seating, then put the bus driver on drugs and set him off onto a two lane pot-marked road. This was my bus. The "bed" seating was so narrow that my companion and I were stuck together---imagine if it were a stranger!!! This is where he twice saved me by just coming along! The a/c didn't work and the door was left gaping open and India dangerously whipping by. After three hours I really had to pee and there was no toilet onboard (this was probably a good thing judging by the cleanliness of the bus). I convinced the bus-driver-on-speed to stop and everyone had five minutes to utilize the, er, dark parking lot. Once the driver shouted, "Go! go!" the bus was off, but my travel companion was nowhere to be seen. This is when I saved him from being stranded in the middle of nowhere with not even his wallet or passport at hand. He caught up running, thoroughly angry and very freaked out.

Arriving in Hampi at 7am groggy after the bumpy ride, we were mobbed by rickshaw drivers and hotel touts. “Rickshaw, madam, rickshaw?” The drivers swore that if we didn’t take their rickshaws to their specific hotels, “the people of the town will throw eggs.”

Huh?

Unfazed, we decided to walk, pondering over what kind of people would throw eggs at tourists for no reason. What a story.

But alas, there were broken eggs in the street. Then a mob of wet screaming kids and men covered in colored powder came dancing and shouting, bottles of color in the air. I was soon to find out that today is the Hindi Holi festival, a celebration of the first day of spring where people douse each other and everything in colors and water. And eggs. And I was not left to merely observe.

You never know what to expect in India. I have never seen or experienced anything like it and can only laugh when things go wayward. When I stop laughing I will know to take the first ticket home.

Colored powder vendor This kid actually checked me into my hotelDancing in the street, wee this is fun!
Noone and nothing is exempt from Holi madness
Still laughing

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm first, Sam!! It sounds creepy the dirt and all, but I also know how squeamish you can be about food. Stuff happens here too with our food. India is not for the faint of heart, huh? Hey, where's you traditional garb? Thanks for the pics!

Moe: said...

Hi Shannen!

I laughed my ass off when I saw that picture of that poor dog covered in pink powder. Not meanly of course, it was just a funny type of picture.

I'm glad you didn't eat a pube and that you didn't have to cozy up with a stranger. Three hours without a bathroom? I would have died. I can go an hour and a half tops.

The festival sounds like a blast. Can't wait to hear of your next adventure.

Shannen said...

*Hi Anonymous*

Ok, this time I can't figure it out...who are you? I'm not THAT squeamish, had it been a normal hair I would have eaten the other sweets. The main question was, how did that particular hair get into my sweet?
I met some other travelers who have been all over the world and I asked them why they chose India now. They said they felt they needed to be ready for it. I felt the same way, I finally feel ready. And I think I'm doing ok, enjoying it. I also can't wait for a clean bed with clean sheets when I get to the States/Japan.


*Moe*

The dog pic kills me, too. Just the fact that he's so relaxed there napping, but you can tell he had a crazy day.

The festival was lots of fun. Hopefully the next bus adventure will be a little less intense...haha.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should send me some pube treats to build up my immune system (please don't, I'm kidding).

Happy birthday to Dad if he's looking.

What a strange experience. My only experience with India is the ultra-conservative doctors they send our way, who usually smell like body odor and curry mixed together. Why can't we get the crazy-fun, paint-throwing ones? Is the holiday still going on so I can throw an egg at a few of them wihtout getting in trouble? A prompt response is appreciated...

sister Sam

Shannen said...

*sister Sam*

You should ask the doctors when they celebrate Holi Festival (if they are Hindu) and bring your eggs on that day. I'll ask around, see if you can't throw anything else of interest.

You know, I thought people would smell here but they don't. Maybe because there are so many other smells I don't notice, or maybe because I smell the same.

How is all in B-town?

Anonymous said...

Seeing how the event and vender are so meticuoulsly planned, and the rickshaw drivers know the correct phrases to say, I suspect that Holi in Hampi is celebrated whenever any tourists come to town....what a great & fun excuse to throw eggs at the foriegners!

BOD

Shannen said...

*BOD*

Ha ha, could be, could be. Many tourists (especially blondes) and white cows are still walking around with pink and blue hair, the stuff doesn't come out!

Anonymous said...

great read. I would love to follow you on twitter.