Asia

Rishikesh, India

I went to an ashram down the road from where I’m staying to see if they had any rooms. The room I’m in has no window and is a bit expensive. 200 Rupees a night. 300 for a room with a window. They said come back in the evening. Walking out of the place I passed a couple of women. One of them said I know you. It was Maya, one of the two American women I met on the flight from Bangkok to Calcutta. She was going to a lecture so I tagged along. We went to a room…

Varanasi, India

I’m waiting for the train for Delhi but have just realized I don’t need to go to Delhi. I want to get up to the mountains where it’ll be cooler and was thinking of heading first to Rishikesh and assumed to get there I would have to go via Delhi, but I could have got a train straight there almost, saving a day of travelling. I’ll arrive in Delhi tomorrow morning and probably won’t stay the night there if I can help it. I think Delhi is hotter than here. I’ll arrive too late to get the morning train to…

Varanasi, India

When I was cycling I was looking forward most of the time. Now, editing the video, I’m looking back. When I watch some of the footage, riding along some road, I can usually remember quite well what comes next: each bump that shakes the camera, each truck that passes too close, each signpost. Though now that I’ve watched the video all the way through, all 52 hours of it, I’m not sure if I’m remembering it from having watched it or from having experienced it. Now I don’t know what comes next. Another six weeks in India and then home….

Varanasi, India

A day of live music, two dead bodies, a procession of boats and dirty linen. I had to be an irritating fussy tourist earlier when I moved to a new room, since the one I was in last night didn’t have a window. They told me the new room had been cleaned but it hadn’t. There were stains on the sheets and the bin was full of rotting leaves that smelt like they’d been there since last autumn. The kid they sent up to do the sheets seemed a bit shocked when I asked him to empty the bin as…

Varanasi, India

In Varanasi it’s impossible to walk from A to B without several people asking where you going? what you want? hashish? opium? come this way. good hotel here. you want cheap hotel? very nice room. rickshaw? This morning I tried the quiet mumbling tactic with the first guy, head down, not making eye contact, quietly muttering vague answers or obscenities that he couldn’t understand. That worked quite well. He gave up after about a minute, or passed the job onto his son cos then I was followed along the ghat having questions fired at me from behind by a kid….

Bodhgaya, Bihar, India

I was woken by drums. Sun festival, I found out later. A small procession going around the area. A couple of drummers and a keyboard player on a cycle rickshaw plus about ten or fifteen people, women and men. I go out onto my balcony, or ledge since they haven’t built the fence yet, and watch as they pass the hotel and then turn down a small mud path between small thatched roof houses. They stop outside one of the houses.

Bodhgaya, Bihar, India

Bollywood music drifts in through the open door of my room. I put my headphones on and listen to my own music: Leonard Cohen, The Specials, The Boards of Canada. The thing with the Buddha and his enlightenment, which I was thinking earlier today while I was supposed to be meditating, is that we only have his word for it that he became enlightened. Maybe he was lying. Is that blasphemous? I’m in the holiest place in Buddhadom, so maybe it is a bit. But Buddha is not a god. God is an illusion. He could have been mistaken. He…

Bodhgaya, Bihar, India

Another power cut. The generator starts up. The first day in Bodhgaya without illness. The Lonely Planet said that the Japanese Monastery offers free Zazen meditation sessions every day at 5 o’clock so this afternoon I went along to give it a try. On the way there someone who I think maybe I met earlier while buying water offered to be a guide. He showed me the way to the place and then said he’d meet me tomorrow to show me somewhere else and I didn’t say a definite no, but I’m not going. Too many people offering to be…

Bodhgaya, Bihar, India

The power keeps cutting out. Every day several times a day. The guest house has its own generator but it’s so noisy I wish they’d just leave us without power. And for the people who live nearby it can’t be very nice. They have to listen to the noise but don’t get any of the power. And it was the same for me until this evening. They didn’t have my floor of the guest house connected up to the generator supply. I think I’m the only one on this floor. This is a noisy place I’m in. Today I lay…

Bodhgaya, Bihar, India

I’ve just been out for something to eat after alternating between lying in bed and sitting in the bathroom next to a bucket for the past 24 hours. I don’t know if it was something I ate – maybe some grapes which I bought from a stall and didn’t wash, or the puri I had for lunch, or some dodgy water. I always drink bottled water but sometimes wonder if they refill the bottles with tap water. It started at about 5pm yesterday with stomach pains as I walked back to the guest house. The Laxme Guest House. It looks…

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