So, I started writing this post more than a month ago, at which point I had intended it to be my “one month in” update for my Year Abroad, but sadly, I wrote a few sheets on a train in Austria and since then, they’ve been gathering dust on my desk. Funny, how life runs away with you.
It’s more than two months since I arrived in Tübingen. At risk of sounding like a cliché, it feels both as though I arrived just a few days ago, and like I’ve lived here for years. Maybe I was always supposed to be here, then. Perhaps it’s that I’ve had so long to get used to the idea. Continue reading “Year Abroad Update: Two Months In”
Summer has truly begun! I can’t quite believe how quickly the last couple of months have gone by and how much has happened, particularly just in June. I’m in something of a state of limbo, living with my parents in Somerset during the university holidays at the moment, but as you’ll find out, hopefully not for long! No offence intended, of course, to my parents who are being fairly saintly in putting up with me. Here are some of the most significant things which have been happening in my life this month!
Okay, so I started writing this one shortly after the last, but with the whole mugging and broken charger incident, I haven’t been able to get back on it until now. Without further ado…
Another installment has arrived! Life is just too busy at the moment; I never realised how difficult it would be to keep a travel blog whilst actually travelling? Being constantly on the move, wanting to fit in as much as possible and see all I can isn’t really conducive to sitting down at the end of the day and writing about it. It’s more conducive to me stumbling into my dorm late in the evening, having a quick shower and falling, already half asleep, into bed. With perhaps a bit of added, pointless faffing about on my phone.
Yep, definitely some of that.
On Monday morning – or rather, closer to noon after the excesses of the previous night – I checked out of my Khao San hostel, and left my bags there in order to go and enjoy another day of unburdened (physically, at least) exploring the city.
Also, I’d mention that I wasn’t really hung over, just quite tired. And that it had taken the grand total of one mixed drink, half of a vodka and Red Bull bucket, one Smirnoff ice, and a pink cocktail, to get me well and truly drunk. Understandable, since I haven’t been drinking at all in India. And it makes a night out cheaper, I suppose? I’d gotten to that point at uni where nothing at all seemed to get me drunk except the magic vodka and Red Bull, discovered by accident one night at a gig with… questionable and hungover-ridden results.
It was another pad thai for breakfast – 30 Baht, not bad – which I made the grievous error in spicing FAR too much and having to choke it down with a brave face in order not to look like a total newbie tourist. I managed. There were a few tears but I managed. Following the suggestions in the Lonely Planet guide for Bangkok, I decided to tackle a couple more of the Bangkok districts. There are quite a few and though I didn’t manage to see every area of interest, I hope to be able to explore a little bit more when I stop there before flying home in August.
So, behold, my first blog entry from Thailand! I’ve been pretty bad with updating recently, and so at the time of writing, I’ve already been gone from Bangkok for a couple of days… Whoops! Better late than never though, I guess, and I always note down what I’ve done, so fear not! You’ll still get the low down on all my doings in Bangkok.
UPDATE: A couple of days? I’m a damned liar. It’s been two weeks.
ANOTHER UPDATE: *hides* It’s been nearly a month. I’m in Cambodia. Darn.
I am crap. I apologise. Having been on the move a bit more, it’s been a little more difficult to get stuff done, and when I say that, I mean that when I do get a chance, I get distracted by social media and watching cliche films like “The Beach” on Youtube. Whoops.
Let’s take a trip back in time and borders to Bangkok where my Southeast Asian adventure kicked off.
I got up at an absolutely RIDICULOUS hour on the Wednesday of that week; sad but necessary to get to Jaipur for a reasonable time, as the journey is nearly six hours long. Ideally, I would have liked to stay overnight, and had planned to stay with a Couchsurfing host, but it didn’t work out with the train times. When I’d been booking the tickets, I’d told the counter guy all this and watched his expression go from “mild interest” to “really couldn’t give less of a shit”.
I’ll write a focus post on my day in Jaipur when I get a chance (around the time I’ll write all those other location based ones, eh?) but for the moment, let it suffice to say that the day was very full, hot, exhausting, exciting, draining, confusing and a whole range of contradictions. Despite it being part of the “Golden Triangle”, I had mixed feelings about Jaipur and didn’t really love it as much as I did Delhi. For me, the hawkers were too aggressive (and that’s saying something, having been in Delhi for a week!), the sights not as impressive as I’d thought, and the place lacked the charm of Agra.
More on that later.
As I’d taken the sleeper train back from Jaipur (and that’s a whole other story!), I was fretting for about an hour before the train reached Delhi for fear of missing my stop and ending up in the back-arse of India in the early hours of the morning. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that, and after a few responses of confirmation to my questions of “Delhi? Next stop?” and quizzical looks, I managed to get off the train at the Old Delhi station just after 5am.
The next day, it was time to explore New Delhi! Most attractions in India are closed on Mondays, but thankfully most of the things I wanted to see were either outside or still open. Firstly, yes, I did walk all day again! I went to Connaught Place, which is pretty much the commercial centre of New Delhi – most of the big avenues lead onto a traffic circle which goes around a circular colonnade of shops, banks and restaurants. It’s like being back in Europe! Costa and Starbucks lining the roads, etc. I even saw Marks and Spencer! Home comforts!
Of course, I HAD to stop for an iced coffee, but straight after that, I headed to the Jantar Mantar, which is a huge observatory just off Connaught Place. It’s quite incongruous with the surroundings! Imagine, these huge red stone instruments surrounded by modern office buildings; very strange! Entrance fee was 100 Rs, but it was worth paying as the place was not only interesting to look around but quite a nice peaceful place to sit in the shade and people watch.
Hey there! So, onto my first journal entry from the big city!
I spent my last day in Dehradun doing one last class with the kids at the summer camp, and leaving to a chorus of “We’ll miss you!” to go and finish up my packing. I had to repack my bag a couple of times to fit everything in (damn the sarees!) but EVENTUALLY I got it down to the big bag, 2 pieces of hand luggage, and a bag of snacks (which I ended up not needing at all).
Later in the day, I bade farewell to my Indian family at Saheli, and started the journey to New Delhi, the capital of India. Check out my post on travelling to and arriving in Delhi HERE! Delhi really is something else, but I’m beyond grateful that I had a couple of months in Dehradun first to adjust to India; coming straight into Delhi really would be getting thrown in at the deep end!
Waking up on my first morning in Delhi was a little surreal; I could hardly believe that for the next two months, it was just going to be me and my backpack trying to navigate Delhi and then South East Asia.
I’m writing this from my new favourite haunt, the Chhaya Café in Old Rajpur. It’s one of a few slightly hipster joints on the Old Mussoorie Road, a bit away from the hustle and bustle of inner Dehradun. Great, cheap food and drinks, a lovely view, and FREE WiFi! My dream location…
Okay, I lie. That’s the only bit I wrote in the café. Procrastinating much! Terrible…
On Thursday, I unfortunately was a bit ill again (does a week ever pass that something isn’t wrong with me???) and spent the day at home, reading and catching up with writing my book reviews – got a nice backlog to publish now, all waiting in the folder! I couldn’t believe that I had just a week left in Dehradun before I moved onto the next part of my journey… Friday wasn’t particularly eventful either as I’d improved a tiny bit – enough to drag myself to summer camp in the morning, but I spent most of the rest of the day asleep…
On Saturday I stayed home from the camp again, and made use of some of my time which wasn’t spent reading by repacking some of my bits and bobs in preparation for the next weeks packing challenge, and tidying all my stuff. Decided to give quite a few bits and pieces to the girls here because I REALLY don’t need all my stuff and it wouldn’t hurt to free up some space.
First journal entry as a nineteen year old! Only one year left of being a teenager… What a grim thought. On Tuesday, I went to the summer camp as usual in the morning, and on today’s agenda was acting out the fairytale of Snow White! The kids do love acting things out, but they always feel terribly put upon when they have to play a King and Queen – they’re still at the age when even pretending to be married to someone is cringe-inducing. Ah, I remember those innocent times…
Afterwards, I headed out with Misha and Achala again. On my way to meet Misha (Achala was running a little late), I couldn’t resist running into a second-hand book depot at Astley Hall, opposite Gandhi Park, which is a much needed spot of green in the busy, dusty city which is Dehradun. It’s like a different world in the park – water features (admittedly lacking water) and trees everywhere – very pleasant! I’m told most protests start from there, perhaps in the same way that College Green In Bristol is a meeting point for that kind of thing.
I bought a couple of books, including Stephen King’s “Christine” and Austen’s “Northanger Abbey” – keep eyes peeled for the reviews! I also got a Lonely Planet Guide to Bangkok; I’m thinking that will be quite useful for when I’m there; I’m going to be in Bangkok on three separate occasions so I’ll probably get quite a bit of time to explore. I don’t want to just go to popular tourist stops, and I wouldn’t really use guidebooks to find cafes or places to stay and eat, but I think they’re very useful for tracking down all the sights and working out how to see what you want to in your available time frame.
Wednesday’s session with the children in the summer school mainly revolved around learning the hokey-cokey, and yet ANOTHER Horrid Henry story. Not necessarily my favourite. They’re really enthusiastic about the hokey-cokey though… Perhaps a little too enthusiastic? Some children ended up on the floor. It looked a bit traumatic.
Followed this up with learning more kathak. I really find that classical dance is so much more interesting and enjoyable to learn than any modern styles. Obviously, that’s a huge generalisation, but I don’t take that well to contemporary of hip-hop. Not for lack of trying! It’s a bit sad that kids here are so obsessed with Western styles; be it clothes, music or dance, that not many of them want to learn kathak or take much interest in their own culture.
Nonetheless, I’m trying to learn as much as I can whilst I’m here. Maybe that should be a focus for me during my travels? Learning different dances from around the world? I never get bored of it! On Thursday, I did join in with a little bit of the hip-hop class, and it was good fun even if I’m pretty awful at it!