June 10, 2006
Not In The Pictures
Notes from the trip and afterwards of things not in the pictures or underrepresented there:
Most of India and China. Because I didn't go there. Yes, that's self-evident, but it's a good thing to remember when looking over the pictures or reading my thoughts on my trip. I have a hard time not thinking of having certain ideas on India and China when I've only seen a glimpse of the countries. This journey was like visiting one city in the US- you may think you know the US from visiting New York, but that's a whole different America to my parents from Wisconsin.
People everywhere. In all places but pockets of Beijing, Xian, and Manali, I was surrounded by people. Overcrowding wasn't something abstract.
The food- the spices, prawn, leg of mutton, oxtail, sushi, live shrimp, chai, Tsing Tao, naan, mangoes, and all the rest of things I tasted and miss now.
The insanity of driving in India. Lanes are an ignored suggestion. Vehicles squeeze into any spot available. Drivers honk every time they pass a car, want to pass a car, or because they haven't honked for awhile. Cars share the road with people, cows, bicycles, and all types of rickshaws. In Jaipur, camels and elephants are added to the mix while in Manali, sheep and goats surround your car. Highways have cars going in the wrong direction, and all rules of the road were negotiable with a well-positioned car or a honk.
Always having your money being checked as a counterfeit in China.
The variety on the street. I didn't take as many pictures of this as I would have liked to, because I often felt awkward as the White Guy Taking Pictures. But I saw the many stands selling the same candy bars and water bottles everywhere, dogs roaming around, people always standing in the shade, the occasional tourist, the trash, the white collar working bustling around like in every city, the beggars, the bewildering street signs, and a thousands other things unique to each location.
The hand of government in China. Not nearly as overtly prevalent as I expected, but still noticeable in the police and soldiers everywhere in Beijing, even given that it's a capital with many important sites. And seen in the lack of Internet cafes and the troubles with visiting certain websites. When gmail is your lifeline to your home, you quickly learn the tricks of keeping it working. Like turning off gmail chat, which consistently blocks gmail for five minutes.
The infrastructure problem in India. Roads in disrepair next to high-tech buildings. Lights flickering in Delhi. Airports where flights are always late. Building projects that never seem to be worked on.
Having a personal server in many restaurants. Often I'd be the only person a restaurant, and the staff would come by if I merely looked in their direction.
The other world travelers I met and the amazing stories I heard. Like the guy who went into someone's room in Manali, was asked to take a "shipment" back to Delhi, and ended up jumping out the window.
The cows in India. I don't have nearly enough pictures of them and how they are a normal part of the scenery.
The construction going on. Everywhere but Hong Kong, which already absurdly built up, there was a massive amount of construction in unexpected places.
The music of India, which I enjoyed more than I knew.
The selling. One of the sourest parts of the trip for me. Often things went well, but the bad experiences overshadowed them. In India, everyone was your best friend but tried to charge you 50x too much or gave you incorrect change. In China, sellers would grab at you, trying to pull you back. I understand the reasons for this, that many people make 10x to 30x less than I do, but that didn't make it less unpleasant. I wasn't someone to argue over small amounts and a few of the sellers did treat me fairly. My favorite buy was a 8 yuan Terracotta Warrior set in Xian. My guide told me that those not bought from the museum would definitely break, but I bought two, which got home without problems.
The unmentioned tour stops. All day tours would take its trapped passengers to a guided factory or other place where you can buy things, at inflated prices. My favorite stop was on the Chinese tour group I took to Mount Hua Shan. It was fun to see a non-English version of these stops. We were first taken to a complex where everyone was in white coats. A man led us into a room, where he talked for ten minutes in Mandarin and showed various plants. Then we were taken into the showroom where countless women stood behind the counters selling herbs of all shapes and colors.
The excitement in Beijing over the Olympics. Signs were everywhere that referenced the Olympics. Perhaps the city always feels like this, but the city felt very new to me, like everything had just been constructed or shined.
The Western feeling of Hong Kong. I knew it'd be different than the rest of China, but I didn't know how different. Most of this post doesn't relate to Hong Kong, which often felt like a European city with much more crowding and skyscrapers.
The heat in Jaipur. I enjoyed the city a lot, but the heat was extraordinary. A half day outside in 110+ F left me drinking five pints of water and two liters of soda.
In India, always being asked about my family or a marriage first. I was never asked where I work or what I do for a living.
All the English, everywhere. A lot more than I expected in China. In Beijing, a lot of younger people walked with me and practiced their English.
The poverty that I didn't feel right taking pictures of. People living next to pigs in the trash in Delhi. The beggars swarming and pleading everywhere in Xian.
The tricks that those on the street who wanted my money played on me. I almost always ignored those who talked to me, so I only heard a few of these.
The breathtaking sights of the Taj Mahal and Mount Hua Shan. Pictures aren't good enough to show this completely.
The traveling part of traveling. 50+ hours in the air and more than that in cars and buses. I didn't mind the traveling as much as I expected, as long as I was feeling well and the driver didn't make me feel like I was going to die on the road.
Posted by Brian at June 10, 2006 05:21 PM
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