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Travel with all your senses
Kathmandu (Nepal) to Kaziranga N.P. (India), Jan-09-08 / Jan-20-08
After having spent five beautiful weeks in Nepal, we returned to India last week. Despite the mixed feelings we had after our first visit to this country, we look forward to the coming weeks in Northeast India. We travel trough the piece of India that is wrapped around Bangladesh and that is not spoiled by mass tourism yet. After visiting this part of India we will enter Bangladesh at its eastern border.

Because we don’t want to miss a thing from our journey, we have to use all our senses. We enjoy the sight of the Golden Oriole more when we also hear his beautiful song. The delicious Indian food tastes even better when we smell the spicy smell. When we feel the sweaty hand of a small girl, we realize more how much she likes to meet us. While we are happy that all our senses work hard, sometimes we wish that one of our senses would take a short break. In Chitwan National Park, we wouldn’t mind missing to see the very tight bathing costumes around the testicles of the male tourist when they went into the river. At the elephant bathing time it’s possible to get a shower out of the trunk of an elephant and sometimes tourists are allowed to help cleaning the elephants. Lot’s of tourists (male and female) are going almost naked into the water which is the main reason that also a lot of local tourists gather on the river shore. For the Nepalese tourists are the western tourists a more important attraction than the elephants. Normally we don’t mind being an attraction, but in this case we skip the elephant washing. However, we really enjoy watching the elephant riders washing their own elephant.

Tourists with very tight bathing costumes in Chitwan N.P.
That afternoon we ride on the back of an elephant through the beautiful forest that surrounds
Chitwan National Park. Our senses have to work hard to process all the images, smells and sounds of this great piece of nature with its famous Rhino’s. It’s also great to observe the Nepalese visitors who make the best out of their outing to Chitwan National Park. ( See also the column: On Safari with the Nepalese).

During some nights we would like to be able to switch off our hearing. We are used to sleep on mattresses that are as hard as a rock and due to our mosquito net we are bothered seldom by the buzzing of insects, but in recent nights we are often disturbed by the sound of other nightly visitors. These are sweet, soft animals with shining eyes and a long tail. Indeed, during the last few weeks we often share our hotel rooms with mice. Fortunately, we both aren’t afraid of these animals and we are happy to share our room with them as long as they are quiet. Which they are not! As soon as we are almost asleep to dream about baby-rhino’s or a brown slice of bread with old cheese (we are still Dutch), a mouse is stepping through the room in search for something to eat. We never have opened packages of food in our room, but the mouse doesn’t know that. So, after he is disappointed about not finding anything to eat he starts gnawing at the legs of the bed to collect nesting material. Because we fall asleep late, we hope to have a lie-in next morning. In most budget hotels this is impossible because the nightly silence doesn’t take that long. As soon as the first people get up, we hear: “gggrrooooooooaaahhh!” followed by a spit on the floor. Unashamed they rattle their throats and spit the green slimy substance on the floor. Not just once, but many times.

After our visit to Chitwan National Park, we travelled to Janakpur in Eastern Nepal. The highlight of this visit wasn’t the famous temple over there, but the great hospitality and friendliness of the people who don’t see a lot of tourists these times. Everywhere we come, we are invited for tea and cookies. A Sadhu (Holy man) invites us into a temple where he offers us blessed food. Our right hand is filled with a light brown paste, that doesn’t looks so nice but it tastes delicious. It’s a kind of condensed milk with a lot of sugar. So, we are happy that our taste buds were working fine at that moment.

Ivonne with a very big Indian family

After leaving Janakpur, it is time to leave Nepal for a while. Later on our journey we like to come back again. (For our general impression on Nepal see also: Nepal Flashback) The border crossing at Kakarvita is as relaxed as when we entered Nepal at Mahendranagar. A bus takes us to Siliguri (India) from where we take a shared jeep too Darjeeling. Darjeeling is a town on 2,100 metres height and is known for its tea and the fabulous mountain views on the Himalayas. We don’t see anything of those mountain views as it is cold, cloudy and foggy all the time. The hotel owner doesn’t remember when he saw the sun for the last time so after a few days in this cold we are glad to leave to the warmer lowland.

We take a train from Siliguri to Guwahati, the capital of the state Assam. Here is our first encounter with the Eunuchs. Eunuchs are men that are kidnapped in their childhood to be castrated to give them this career. They dress themselves in women clothes and put on heavy, ugly make-up. Only a few of the Eunuchs are travesties who chose for the castration themselves. Indians think that Eunuchs deliver bad luck. They visit wedding parties uninvited and they only leave if they get a lot of money. Some even threaten to show their genitals if the offered sum of money isn’t enough. We see the Eunuchs in action in the train. Two Eunuchs woke up a young guy who was sitting opposite to us. They threatened to touch him on his head that would give him bad luck. The guy turned white and took his wallet instantly to pay off this evil. After receiving the money, the Eunuchs left to search for a new victim.

From Guwahati we travel further by bus to Kaziranga National Park. Temperatures on the plains are nice and the nature that surrounds us is great. Until now we really like Northeast India. The people are much friendlier than on the tourist trail in Delhi and Rajasthan. Shopkeepers are more interested in some small talk than a rip off. However, Indians are still Indians. That means that we sometimes want to close our eyes when the men are shitting at the side of the road in full sight or when grandma is picking out the dirt between her toes in the train before she offers us a slice of her orange. Our ears are still not used to the smacking when people are eating next to us. So, we still have to learn a lot as travellers! We don’t want to say that smacking while eating isn’t “good”, but we are just not used to it yet. Every night we would like to close our nose at the moment that we put off our shoes. Maybe we should consider washing our socks more often than once a week.


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