Australia... and the Top 7 Things I Forgot to Mention About India

Thursday, October 24, 2002
G'day mates! Today is the halfway point in my trip! I have as many memories to look back on as I do travels to look forward to. Today is my 139th day.

I climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge the other day. It was so much fun,and really one of the only reasons I wanted to come back to Sydney, it was great! We also went to the Zoo, to a hash, and to a movie... something with Tom Hanks in the Mafia. In a few minutes we are leaving to meet up with Carla's pen pal from Junior High, who we have already met quite a few times. (Hi Sarah!)

Fun fact about the Sydney Opera House: When it was built, the planned cost was supposed to be 3 million dollars. By the time they were done, it cost 105 million dollars! Oops.

Not too much to report on, but I keep thinking of interesting stuff from India, so here is a bit more on that:

  1. Upon trying to check into my hotel room in Goa, India (after finding out that the original year and a half old booking turned up a shut down hotel!), the man behind the desk asked my friends and I would we like a room with a fan (some call it fan con), or one with air con. It's really hot and humid in Goa, so of course we wanted air con, so that's what we told him. He replied that they no longer had any rooms available with air con, so how about one with a fan?
  2. The Indian government runs handicraft stores called Cottage Craft Emporiums. They are great, because they are actual stores (as opposed to street vendors) where you purchase stuff without getting
    harassed and without having to haggle with anyone. In Delhi it was so complicated to go through the checkout line and purchase your goods that I actually needed assistance! In the end, it took five people (I counted) to sell me my $3 drink coasters. Guy #1 wrote out the receipt and brought the item to 2 men who both wrapped up my item and stapled it into a paper bag. Another woman took my money and sent me over to the "wrappers" to collect my purchase – after showing them my receipt, that is. The fifth guy checked my bag at the door to see that I took from the store what I actually paid for.
  3. We actually saw this sign at a train station: (sic) "Visitors Are Requested To Travel By Rail, Because Rail Is Very Comfortable And Is Connected By All The Tourist Spots In India. For Proper Guidance Please Contact International Tourist Bureau And Tell This To Your Fellow Tourists Too. Our Services Are Always At Your Disposal."
  4. A second sign I saw in the train station was this, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness". I actually caused a
    scene when I saw this because I thought it was so funny. The thing about Indian trains are the toilets... when you flush, it all just lands out on the tracks underneath the train! In order to alleviate some of the bad smells, they ask that you don't use the toilet while the train is stopped in the station... but since does anyone follow rules? You can imagine the results...
  5. As a Westerner in India, you are a SPECIMEN. I kid you not, little children point at you and tell their Mom about you in Hindi. Teenage boys follow you around town like the Pied Piper. At tourist attractions fathers take photos of you with their pre-pubescent daughters. And, movie producers ALWAYS cast Westerners as extras in their moves, trust me!
  6. You name it, and you will find it piled onto a moped. This isn't specific to just India, it applies to South East Asia too. Here's a few examples – rugs, coconuts, pigs, hundreds of sticks, corn bushels, very large boxes, families of four, propane tanks, loads of whole chickens, lots of fish and dangling turkeys, to name just a few!
  7. I went on a tiger safari and actually saw tigers. It was really amazing. It was in a reserve in Rajastan and when we started asking our jeep guide stuff about the tigers we found out some fun facts: There are currently about 35 tigers in the reserve. They have room for about 70 before the tigers start encroaching on each other's territory – at that point they'll start fighting each other to the death to protect their land. The best is this – during the nineties the number of tigers in the park decreased to about 17 because government officials were poaching them. That's right, politicians were actually going hunting IN the game reserve; so much for a National Park!


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