Thursday, October 28, 2010

20101024 India - Haridwar

I took a jam-packed rickshaw to travel from Rishikesh to Haridwar. It was OK, but the moment I arrived at Haridwar, I had the instant feeling that this was not my expectation.

After checking-in hurriedly into a hostel recommended by Lonely Planet, I started exploring the city, headed straight to the public bus station (opposite to the railway station) to check out the bus schedules. This short walking distance... hmmm... I can only describe CHAOTIC!

It was hot and humid. The ghats were long on both sides of the Ganga river bank. But... as usual, rubbish decorated the area. Lots of people. And plenty of poor people lying and scattering around under the scorching sun. The water level was low, probably controlled by the dam a short distance away. Quite some "extra objects" in the river - very likely not rubbish because no one should dump anything into this holy river, I think those were left over from the praying ceremonies.

Finally, I walked up to the largest ghat in the city... phew... very very lively and lots of pilgrims. Not many foreigner faces were seen. The whole city was very Indian. It is an important pilgrimage city but not a touristy place. It lacks the charm and uncomparable to Varanasi.

Right next to this ghat was the colourful Bara Bazaar. Most of the shops were selling local snacks and ceremony related substances. Plenty of unfortunates begging for money - those losing fingers and palms because of leprosy, amputees, old skinny persons... my heart sank...

An old monk pulled my shirt and pointed to a restaurant, I guessed he wanted me to buy him a meal. How could I do that? Dozens of them in the area, I would be besieged if I would agree to him. I walked away immediately, he poked me with his walking stick!!! What the heck!

I went back straight to my room and only walked out to have my meals. I didn't want to go back to the ghats anymore. Interesting, there were plenty of stickers printed "Keep Silence" in the whole hotel building, but I heard the Indians talking out loud from 8pm to 10pm. My ears were tortured.

The next day, I went to the local bus station. I asked someone which was the bus to Dharamsala... "~!@#$%^&*" and he shoke his head rhythmically and pointed me to another one. I asked the 2nd one, he shoke his head too but said "3pm". Fine, I sat down on the floor (no bench and chair at all) in the middle of the waiting hall. There were not even a sign in English. After 15min, I noticed there was a bus printed "Dharamsala", I approached the conductor, he told me the bus would be leaving in 10min, which means 2pm... NOT 3pm!!!

Glad to catch the bus... but the tedious 15hr overnight journey on this so-called "semi deluxe" bus was really really really not pleasant. I had to share with another 2 persons on the non-reclining seat with limited leg room. My neck was pain and my legs were sore.