How we were almost raped in a cinema

…sort of.

After a bumpy, painful 13-hour busride, we arrive in [insert random name] at 6 in the morning. I honestly don’t know the place, never heard of it before. Anyway, the busdriver makes us get off the bus and wait for a public bus, that we get on with our backpacks. Didn’t see that one coming. I was never told by the travel agent that we had to switch busses. It’s our first time on an actual local bus, and it gradually fills up with young people, probably students, and they all seem very interested in the two tired-looking chicks in the back. Thirtysomething kilometers later, we stop somewhere in Agra, and the bus is almost empty. I ask the bus driver for directions, but he just tells me to stay on the bus. He parks it on a parking lot full of empty busses, and he and his friend get out and ask us to follow them. We do for a little while, until it becomes pretty  obvious that they’re just trying to take us somewhere we can’t get help. We run away silently.

Once we’ve reached a street with lots of tuk tuks, we begin to bargain for ages for a reasonably priced ride. We finally arrive at Pyrenees Home Stay, which is perfect by the way. We have breakfast on the roof, and we can see the Taj Mahal from there! Since it’s Friday, it’s is closed, so we decide to do all the sightseeing tomorrow. After a nap and a shower, we get dressed for lunch. Since all my pants and shirts are in the laundry, I wear this.

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Bad move. After lunch at Pinch of Spice, it is only 3.30, so we decide to go to the movies. There’s a 2.5 hour long horror movie in Hindi playing at the moment called Ragini MMS 2, starring Sunny Leone (yes, the pornstar). Bruno recommended it to us. We are about ten minutes late for the movie, same as two local guys, who insist on showing us the way to the auditorium and sitting next to us. It becomes very apparent that this was a bad idea.

First of all, people in India seem to be very responsive to the movie they’re watching. When something’s supposed to be funny, they’ll almost exaggerate their laugh. When something’s scary, they scream a little louder than I’m used to. It’s also very apparent that sexuality is still a bit of a taboo, so people have to repress their sexuality a lot. That often leads to an overreaction, so here we are, watching a movie starring a former porn star in her underwear. We’re talking about a tank top and panties, and the guys around us go absolutely crazy. That’s when I realise that we are almost the only girls in the auditorium.

The guy next to me keeps offering to translate the movie for me, but I insist that I’m fine. The overexaggerated acting, the simple plot, and the fact that half of the lines are in English makes it a lot easier to understand a foreign movie than you would think. Still, the guy makes a few translations here and there, before going in for the kill: he leans in and asks me if I want to “french”. Completely shocked and disgusted, I almost yell out “no!” in a much ruder way than I intended to. He doesn’t seem too fazed by my rejection, but tells me that my skirt is very short and daring, and that I should be more careful – guys will be grabbing my ass if I keep wearing that. Just like that, my life is more scary than the horror movie.

During intermission, we both go to the bathroom to get away from the guys, but even more of them are standing in the lobby. I tell Sara what happened during the movie, and we agree to find new seats. We scoot in a few more seats, but people behind us start shaking our seats and carefully touching the top of my hair. Jeez, we’re just two pale people watching a movie, leave us alone. The attention is pretty intense, so after the movie, as everyone gathers by the elevator, we decide to wait until everyone has left before getting into one. When we come out of the elevator and walk out to the parked tuk tuks, some of the guys from the auditorium are still hanging around, and they even follow us on their scooter for a little bit, while we are on a tuk tuk back to the hostel.

So this was the story of how I wore a skirt and we went to the movies, and people followed us around and probably wanted to rape us. Talk about a scary day.

I’ll end this post with a picture of Sara walking next to a lady with a big bowl of cowpoo on her head.

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Rishikesh – part II

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When we wake up, it’s cold. Very cold. The sky is cloudy and grey, and it seems that the sun won’t show today. The power is out again. We desperately need a shower, but have to settle for a bucket of ice water. Shark week’s coming (all you ladies should feel sorry for me).

But then I have a cup of masala chai and everything’s alright again. I am insisting on having masala chai everyday until we leave India from now on. I’m going to miss that stuff like I miss clean clothes and watching Saturday Night Live by myself instead of going out. We have breakfast and apple-beetroot-carrot juice to get some vitamins in our system, while a Brazilian guy tells us that we are being paranoid about getting raped, and how bad McDonald’s is for you. Then he starts talking about meditation. What a hippie.

We decide to head out for the day. Our hostel is on one side of the Ganges River, while everything else seems to be on the other side. A long bridge crosses the water, and on this bridge you will find a lot of people… and cows. Seriously, cows are just everywhere in this country and I find it hilarious. When will you ever see a cow just casually walking on a bridge in Denmark? The answer is never.

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So, back in the 60’s, The Beatles visited Rishikesh for a few months and wrote some of The White Album here, so it’s kind of a big deal. We walk all the way out of the city center to the Beatles Ashram, which is hard to find and impossible to get into – at least when we get there. We are even joined by a young Indian couple that is just as lost as we are. The ashram is just an abandoned hotel in the woods, so no big deal, but now we can say we’ve walked in the footsteps of James Bond (in Udaipur) and The Beatles (in Rishikesh).

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I’m kind of liking this place. The nature is very different from what we’ve seen so far in India. It’s my version of Paradise, with silver sand, green grass and little purple flowers growing everywhere. It’s just so lush. The Ganges river is greenish-blue, and looks so warm and clear and calm. It’s not. We head to the beachy riverside and dip our toes in – they nearly freeze off, which makes it all the more impressive when a local man in a thong goes there for a bath. He has a nice ass by the way. The main part of Rishikesh smells like weed and is swarmed with flies, though. None of the buildings really interest me, but I’m loving the nature.

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I just wanna picnic here.

We go to the bazar and pick up a few things. The sellers aren’t really into bargaining here, which is too bad, ’cause I see the maxi-skirt of my dreams in three different shops, all charging about 300 rupees, even though all the skirts had a hole somewhere. We go to Little Buddha for lunch, which has a nice (touristy) atmosphere, but the food and service isn’t all that. I can’t complain about my Oreo milkshake with ice cream though!

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A cow just wanting to enter the store and buy his mom a birthday present.

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Since we’re leaving tomorrow to go to Agra, we go to the hostel’s travel agent to book a bus, but he claims there aren’t any busses going for the next month. We hurry over to the closest travel agent for a second opinion and wooptie!, 2 tickets for a double sleeper to Agra tomorrow evening. We have a lot of hours to spend between check-out and the bus, so we book an appointment at a massage clinic next to the hostel. I don’t remember telling this, but in Jaipur we had a full body oil massage, which I found out isn’t really for me, so this time, I just book a mani, pedi and henna instead.

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I am amazed by how many erotic novels Sara has on her Kindle at the moment.

To be honest with you for a second, I have never felt so unattractive in my life, and I’d like to remember that, so I’m actually writing this down. My hair is greasy and tangled, although completely blonde again, my skin is breaking out, my clothes are dirty and there are still traces of Holi in my ears, nose and under my nails. Like Pete would have said, my face looks like shit. I just want to curl up and hide from the public until I’ve had a decent shower and look like myself again. People just keep staring at me because I’m different, and I can’t stand it when I feel this uncomfortable in my own skin. We’re starting to lose weight, and I’ve gotten a tan, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Also, happy birthday, grandpa. Don’t worry too much about me!

Rishikesh – part I

I wake up at 5 in the morning, sandwiched between Bruno and Sara in our lousy bed. After quietly packing up, we leave a sleeping Bruno and go to the train station, where the confusing system almost makes us panic. We eventually find the right train and have to kick a few people out of our seats, which doesn’t make us popular. Then again, tourists don’t seem to be popular in general. I feel like I haven’t seen other tourists around for ages – last time was in Jaisalmer, and then at the Retreat Ceremony at the border, where a soldier exclaimed “go this way, you’re VIP’s in India” (just needed to include that, because it made me happy).

The train ride is uneventful. We take short, uncomfortable naps, read on Sara’s Kindle, tell beggars to F off, and we squat over a hole that is supposed to be a toilet and pee. Someone actually took a dump and missed the hole, so we’re basically marinating a turd in pee. I want to puke just thinking about it, and I thought you guys would like to know what gross things I get to see everyday. You’re welcome.

7 hours later, the train is at its last stop, and it’s not Rishikesh like we asked our travel agent when he booked our ticket. We are Hadiwar, which I have never heard of, and therefore I can’t find it on a map either. Did we even take the right train? The information desk isn’t helpful at all, but luckily we meet a man who helps us in exchange for a picture of us with his family. He finds us a shared vikram, which I’d say fits 6 people, but somehow there’s always around 8 squeezed together. The driver asks for a 100 rupees to get to our hostel, but as an older couple board the vikram, he asks for another 50 to buy a seat for our backpacks. As we are in the middle of nowhere at this point, we agree. 10 minutes later, another guy gets on the vikram, and now the driver wants us to put out backpacks on the roof. The old Indian couple take our side, I assume, arguing with him in Hindi. I bet they are telling him that he can’t charge us for a seat if we aren’t allowed to use it. He gives in and continues driving, while Sara and I shyly smile at the couple. It’s kind of humilliating being treated like this, and it’s amazing that someone sees how unfair it is and helps out.

It takes like an hour just to reach Rishikesh, and we just sit in silence, completely squished by all the people sitting in the vikram. I see a few road signs with the words “Elephant crossing”, which makes me laugh. As a Northern, I can’t ever imagine an elephant just casually crossing the road. Ever.

In Rishikesh. our driver is being a pain in the asshole again. He wants to drop us off just at the main road, not the hostel. It will cost a 100 rupees extra if we want to be dropped off at the place we actually agreed on. We try to explain to him that it is an unacceptable way of conducting a business, all while we are squeezing a poor guy between us. We also take advantage of a young student who speaks great English, so we’re sure the driver understands us. We have no idea where the hostel is from the main road, but we’ve read that it’s quite the walk, and we’re not about to embark on a long hike in this heat with this luggage. We are dropped off at the hostel and I hand him 200 rupees because I don’t have a 50, but now he wants 200 more – a total of 400 rupees. No fucking way. I curse at him loudly and start walking up the hill to our hostel – that’s right, he still didn’t drop us off at the exact place we agreed on. He gives me my money back in anger and leaves, then suddenly comes back and asks for them again. While I am blowing up in front of a group of young locals, I give him the 200 and ask him to leave immediately.

By then it is 4 in the afternoon, so our day is pretty much over. We decide to postpone the sightseeing and just chill at the hostel restaurant, where a banana split means deep-fried banana with nutella. Then the power goes out, and we read 50 Shades of Gay on Sara’s Kindle. The end.

Amritsar, also I’m going to get a penis

The number of times I’ve sworn I’m getting a penis once we get to Thailand is impossible to keep track of. While I enjoy my chesticles and wearing dresses, I can’t survive another 12-19 hour bus drive that only stops for a ladies peebreak once.

In India (as well as many other places in the world) it is perfectly acceptable for a man to pull his pants down and urinate publicly. Women on the other hand not only have to deal with a far less efficient plumbing system, they also have either to find a toilet, or a bush so far away that no one can hear them scream if they get raped. Because, you know, vaginas are gross to look at, penises are totally fine.

Now that’s off my chest, I’d like to announce that we are currently in Amritsar. Where’s that, you say? I have no idea. Bruno said something about a golden temple and we like shiny things. Men here wear turbans and no shoes. When we arrive at 8 in the morning, it is raining and the streets are all muddy and gross. Poor barefoot guys. Of course, when the weather’s shit, there’s also only one autorickshaw driver around, and he wants to overcharge. We get to the hostel, a large apartment block full of Indians, which means it’s cheap and dirty. Oh well.

20140324-223153.jpg“I woke up like this”

Now, ever since our psychology teacher in High School told us about her trip to India, where she mentioned that McDonald’s is a vegetarian “restaurant”, I’ve wanted to go just for that. What is a vegetarian McDonald’s like? I’ve been harassing Sara, who is gluten, lactose and life intolerant, and finally she budged today. Finding this World famous place is a bit of a struggle though, since no tuk tuk driver knows what or where McDonald’s is – what? So we need to use two different drivers to get here, since the first one just drops us off by a mall-looking place, far away from everything. Finally, when we arrive, I have a large McVeggie meal and it is 27 kr. 27 kr! Denmark should reconsider the prices, but definitely keep the Big Tasty. Oh, how I miss having dead cow in my mouth.

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Getting back to our hostel is the same struggle; two different drivers that don’t recognise the name or address of the hostel, even though it’s super close to The Golden Temple. We rest after our trying day, and at 2.30, we drive to the Indian-Pakistana border for the Retreat Ceremony.

We share a car with two local couples, an old and a newlywed, and they are busy showing us pictures on their phones – Indians love to take hundreds of blurry pictures and then show them all to whoever is willing to look – and they ask to see my husband (we tell everyone we’re married), so I end up showing them a photo of the only guy that’s not Bruno on my phone: Michael from Jaisalmer on a pink scooter. Thanks Michael for sending me that picture, haha.

We get to the border, and that’s when we get seperated from Bruno. All the lines are according to gender, and there’s a seperate line for tourists – these two lines lead to the VIP section. We reunite in this section, standing on a big staircase, looking out on a long street where the two countries meet. On India’s side of the border, local women and children gather on the road and dance and run around with their flag. I recognise one of the songs as Jai Ho from the Slumdog Millionaire Soundtrack. After some dancing, guards do a funny walk towards the gate between the two countries, and then open it. People go absolutely crazy with excitement, and I’ll admit I do too. I find it very moving for some odd reason.

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Guy painted flag on my cheek and I took an awkward selfie

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On our way back to the hostel, the couples insist we stop by a temple. I follow them, just taking it all in, but hurry back to the car, as the driver tells us we only have a few minutes. We get back, and since Sara and I cannot eat Indian food, because it’s so spicy, we go to Domino’s (it’s close to the hostel, give us a break). This place is also vegetarian, just FIY. I have like two slices of pizza, so Sara gives my leftovers to a poor woman on the street as we head to The Golden Temple for the 9 o’clock ceremony. It starts raining again.

218920140324-223604.jpg2193-2Sneak peek of the inside

Now, this temple is so beautiful, especially at night. People are bathing in the water surrounding this golden wonder, kissing the ground around it, and handing out food for small offerings. Once we get inside, we are hit with the feeling of being very unwelcome, as people take a break from praying to look up and stare at us. Everything inside is golden and so beautiful. People are sitting down, praying, while men are playing instruments and singing in a circle filled with flowers and money. We have a quick look around and decide not to interrupt and invade their space anymore. We’ve lost the ever-curious Bruno along the way and have to walk the dark and narrow alleys to find the hostel by ourselves. It proves to be very challenging, mostly because we both want to set each other on fire.

Now, we are both kind of over India by now. Maybe it’s the food, maybe it’s that we feel unsafe and unwelcome too often, maybe it’s because we’re sober. It’s a beautiful, yet confusing country, and I am forever grateful that I got the opportunity to come here and have these experiences, because so few people actually get to do this. I am ready to move on though, but I still have things to see and do here, so I cannot listen to anymore complaining. I have been writing down some general thoughts and observations about India that I will share when we leave in one week. Until then, know that I miss and think about the ones that matter back home and all over the place.

Happy birthday, grandma.

The Pink City

This is a rather appropriate one, considering how pink my life is. I work and live in a pink palace and dye my hair pink every summer, so of course I had to visit The Pink City, Jaipur.

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Now, our first time on an Indian train is quite an interesting one. I find the system super confusing, and the train is old without windows – it’s just carved out holes in the wall with bars on them. India doesn’t seem to have trash cans anywhere, so people just throw stuff out of the windows at any given time, creating big piles of garbage everywhere for the cows to munch on. The three sleeper beds per wall on the train are just seats during the day.

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We get to sit with a nice Indian family, that is talking to us most of the time, and we share our snacks between each other. The beds are so narrow, that falling off is a serious concern for me, who of course gets to be on the very top one, being the shortest of us. Needless to say, it isn’t our best sleep, and we prefer our sleeperbusses.

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At 5 in the morning, we find ourselves walking around Jaipur looking for our hostel, while a drunk beggar is following us. When we find Vinayak, we are shown to the Wi-Fi lounge to sleep for a few hours until our room is ready. The hostel is very nice. The owner knows the names of all his guests, and he always stops to talk with everyone he sees. We certainly feel welcome and comfortable here. He arranges for an autorickshaw driver to take us around town, and we split our sightseeing into two days. Our driver, Sardar, is amazing, and we highly recommend him to anyone who’s in Jaipur! If you want to get a hold of him, his number is ‪09928050788‬.

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The first day, we each pay Sardar 250 rupees. He takes us to a tomb, through the bazars in the Pink City, and then to Amber Fort. That place is huuuge! We get lost a couple of times. We are also some of the most popular people at this major tourist attraction, as groups and groups and groups of Indians ask for pictures with us. One person will take the picture with someone’s phone or camera, and then they’ll switch photographer, until everyone has been behind the camera, and everyone has a picture on their phone.

1999-2IMG_00572035-2IMG_0138-2IMG_0179-220140323-101408.jpgGiving the locals a taste of their own medicine by also insisting on a 1000 pictures with them.

2050-2 Rare sighting of a trashcan!

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It’s a tiring experience walking around so much and taking it all in, but we continue to drive by Water Palace and look at it from afar for a few mintues. Not that impressed.

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Then it’s off to the Monkey Temple, which is older than your mom, so like 500 years old. The walk up the hill is hard enough, but then we find out we still have to walk down the hill to get to the temple – all while being attacked by monkeys! One of the bigger ones by the entrance sees my bag of peanuts – something they insist you buy! – and tugs at my scarf to get to my shoulders and steal my peanuts. I am about to shit bricks. Luckily, one of the young guys hanging around, offering to escort people to the temple without having to worry about monkeys, comes to my rescue. Sara and I are wearing our Punjabi dresses, and they’re not very practical when running away from monkeys.

The next day starts at the Tiger Fort, which is located on top of the steepest hill I’ve ever peed on. Yes, after the most exhausting walk with lots of breaks, Sara and I have to pee really bad, and there are no toilets in sight. So we pee at the gate to the Tiger Fort. Sorry.

The Fort is simple and yellow, and not really worth the walk to me. It does give a nice view over Jaipur, but so does the Monkey Temple.

20140323-101421.jpgThe view is pretty neat for a toilet, eh

IMG_0599IMG_0616Just look at that looong, curvy road we’re walking on! You can spot me and Sara being so far behind Bruno it’s not even funny. 

IMG_0629IMG_0652IMG_0661 This is disgusting and amazing. Of course, women are not allowed to use this, because vaginas are gross.

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We’re soldiers

We then go to the Albert Hall museum, where we basically go in just to pee (again. I drink lots of water, you guys). Sara and I do have a quick look around and see some mummies and weapons, but it isn’t really something we’re that interested in, so we head out again to wait for Bruno.

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Next stop is Hawa Mahal, but we only have 30 minutes to see it, because parking isn’t allowed. It’s stressing us out a bit, so we’re all in a pretty bad mood.

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We stop by a 35 meter tower which is like Round Tower in Copenhagen, but steeper. Here, we once again get to check out the view. Finally, Sardar drops us off at a textile shop called Ethnic Textile. Here, they explain a bit about colorblocks and natural colours made from safran, chili, indigo and spinach. The guys at the shop are super nice, they teach us some Hindi phrases, serve us masala chai and show us a million different fabrics. We end up buying bedsheets, cushions, pashmina scarves and clothes. Oops.

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Jaipur is pretty awesome, but not as pink as I thought. I’ll be back again someday, for sure!