When we arrive at 6 in the morning, having sweated and tried to sleep on the bumpy 12-hour busride, then carrying our bags 1 km down the road to our hostel and being met with a receptionist that doesn’t seem too friendly, I’m not really liking True Friends Inn. The room is small and the bathroom shitty. But when we go down to reception after a long nap and is offered sweet pineapple by a Vietnamese guy that speaks a little bit of Danish, I know we have come to the right place.
Nha Trang is a very touristy beach town. Not that I mind. I do mind that it’s full of Russians looking like they’re in a bad 80’s movie with their perms and floral dresses, approaching us and assuming we’re Russians too.
On our first day we do nothing but chill. We find a nice little sushi place for dinner where like 12 staff members enthusiastically shout “welcome!” at the same time when we come in. So funny.
We get back to our hostel and our roommates, three guys from Canada, grab some beers and start a drinking game in the reception. We go to Booze Cruise Bar and play drunk jenga and smoke hookah until sometime after 1 or 2 AM.
I am standing at a food stall across the street, when Sara suddenly starts feeling really ill. She has been playing pool with one of our roommates upstairs, and apparently she has taken a sip of a strangers drink. I buy her a 20.000 dong water and pay for an incredibly short cab ride home, which is 11.500 but the driver wants me to pay 50.000, and of course I start a fight with him while my roommates get Sara into bed, where she falls right asleep.
The next day we are both very hungover. We decide to just take a beach day, which is nice for a change.
With my sweet pineapple <3
Later, we meet Edda and go for Italian food and then to see the new X-Men movie. It’s decent, although it turns out that our popcorn are caramel popcorn instead of salted popcorn, which is quite a turnoff. I need salted popcorn when I’m at the Movies, and I find caramled popcorn absolutely disgusting.
We hop on a bus at 8 in the morning the next day, and stay on it for 12 hours. My main entertainment is a snoring lady next to me. We stop for food and bathroom breaks and I get pho and a fanclub of like 5 teenage girls working behind the counter where I order, pay and wait for food. They keep staring and giggling at me like I am the unicorn that they’ve always hoped to see. It’s awesome. Sara ruins my moment in the spotlight by pointing out that it’s just because I’m blond.
So, on our first day in Vang Vieng, we pretty much think there is only really one street here and tha’s it. We stay at Easy Go, which seemed nice at first, until we have to endure another night in a fan room, which makes us soak the beds in sweat. I wake up, feeling severely dehydrated and unable to do a simple task like showering or brushing my teeth, so we decide it’s time to check out and go to Central Backpackers. Most restaurants play Friends all day and night, so we honestly spend two days just chilling on a bed of pillows, watching TV. I’ve been in this weird state of laziness since Bangkok, and I haven’t wanted to drink or really meet people since then. It’s quite awful.
This is what paradise looks like to the lazy backpacker
On our third day, we decide to go tubing, which is what this place is known for. We meet two Danish girls, Siw and Christine (random that I found another one, since it’s such a rare name back home), and an American guy, Tyler. We all go to the first bar, shotgun a can of beer, have shots, play beerpong and then we go out on the water.
At the next bar, I play flipcup, have cocktails, more shots and probably another beer. You get a nice little bracelet for every shot you do. By the third bar I am wasted. I lose Sara in the grass somewhere between the third and fourth bar, and after drinking at the fourth for a while, I get worried. I have just assumed she was going to catch up anytime, or maybe she’s met some of our friends on the way on gone back to the other bar. A guy I’ve been drinking with goes out to find Sara, but after 10 minutes it starts raining. A lot. He doesn’t come back, and the girls at the bar start to get pissed with me that their friend in’t back, so I decide to swim against the current in the rain to find her.
I am calling out her name, but nothing but the hard rain responds. The river is cold and dark, sometimes really deep, sometimes I can feel my feet stick in the gooey mud. I am scared, because I don’t like deep and dark waters, and because all that I can think of, is how I have to call Sara’s parents and tell them that their daughter has drowned. I swim for at least half an hour (since I wma searching very hard, and the weather makes swimming more difficult) before I reach the last bar we’d been to. It’s packed with people, and I look everywhere, crying hysterically. Suddenly, a few of the people I have been drinking with see me, and run over to see what’s wrong. They try to comfort me and tell me that she’ss alright, but I don’t believe them. I’m drunk and scared. A couple of french guys come around and jokingly say (in a french funny way – so without a smile on their faces) that she is probably dead and it’s my fault for not taking better care of her. Of course this upset me even more, and one of the girls takes me away from the crowd and tells me to go home.
I cross the river to get to a bar with no people in it. A big local family is sitting there, and as I approach them for help to get a taxi, I break down. Still, they take me to a taxi and demand 20.000 kip. I am tired, sad and desperate, so I just hand the driver money. As he’ss about to drive, three very demanding spanish girls jump on board and only pay 10.000 each. They keep asking him to drive faster so they can get their deposit for the tubes back – I realise I have lost mine at the fourth bar, when I went out swimming to look for Sara. After they’ve been dropped off, the driver doesn’t bother stopping at my hostel: he tells me to get off at the same place as the girls and walk in the rain. I try to argue, after all I have paid double, but he lets me out, and I walk barefoot in a bikini in the rain, crying.
I walk up to the room to find Sara asleep. I don’t even feel relieved, I just feel anger. I startethrowing things at her to wake her up and show how upset I am, but her side of the story is different than mine. She feels that I have abandoned her, and I am the bad guy. More upset than ever, I walk out, go to a restaurant and have dinner and watch Friends for hours. I calm down quite a lot, but not enough. I stay up till about 3 at night, still very drunk, and buy an amazing burger on the street just before falling asleep.
Best burger ever
Bracelets from tubing
The next day, I get Sara’s version of the story. She called for me while we were approaching the fourth bar, passed out in the tall grass by the river, then was taken to some local’s home, where she vomited, before being driven back to the hostel and helped to bed.
The yearly rocket festival Bun Bang Fai is happening that day to celebrate the beginning of rain season, but we don’t bother leaving the restaurants.
At night, people get what they wished for: rain. And lots of it. It’s storming, massive lightning bolts appear all over the sky, and the rain is brutal. The power goes out for quite some time. The ground floor is flooded. The door to our room on the third floor can barely stay closed from the strong wind. I guess no street food for me tonight.
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.
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.
Or so we thought.
After sitting on the pavement of a hot, busy street for what seems like ages, our bus stops a few hundred metres away from us. As we are entering the bus, we are greeted by a handful of local guys right by the driver’s seat, loudly exclaiming “nice” as they stare us down. Creeped out, we go to the back of the bus to get to our top sleeper. As we climb the ladder, the guys go absolutely nuts. They are laughing, yelling and pointing, just because they got to see us bend over to get into our sleeper. Great. At this point, I am 90 % sure we are going to get either robbed or raped at night. I am extremely terrified, so we try to keep our spirits high by singing children’s songs about bad busdrivers.
But it gets worse.
The sleeper is disgusting. It’s old, worn down and downright dirty. It has to be the smallest, most expensive double sleeper we have ever been in, with no AC either.
But it gets worse.
The bus barely drives anywhere for the first five hours. It will drive for 10-20 minutes, then stop for an hour, then drive for another 10 minutes, only to stop for several hours again. Not having AC on the bus is acceptable when you’re actually driving, as the wind cools you down, but being parking for hours directly in the sun with no curtains to block the warm rays is awful. The mattress and blankets under us gets soaked with our sweat. We are getting increasingly annoyed. And the bus keeps stopping. We realise that it doubles as a delivery service, as we stop just to unload packages, and at one point, all the guys are outside, trying to lift motorbikes to the roof and then attach them. This gives the bus a slight tilt, which is just great when your driver is a maniac behind the wheel.
But it gets worse.
The road is so bumpy, and our bus is driving so fast, that our bodies actually elevate and we bump our heads into the ceiling, even though we are lying straight down. It’s like a long rollercoaster ride that you never asked for.
But it gets worse.
We get our only toiletbreak 9 hours into the ride, but we both have to pee long before that. I blame the bumpy road punching our bladders. Sara is so desperate, she takes out a plastic bag and asks me if it’s OK if she pees right in our sleeper, into the bag. Of course I say no, the girl has no aim and the road is bumpy, and I don’t want to spend 15 hours on a pissed-soaked mattress.
But it gets worse.
At one point, I pull aside the curtain that seperates our sleeper with the rest of the bus, and to our surprise, the bus is completely full. So full, that people are sitting on the floor of the bus. We are the only tourists on the bus, and as soon as I pull aside the curtain, people notice us and we are now the most interesting thing to look at on this bus. I close my eyes, enjoying the breeze coming from the window, drying my sweat-soaked clothes a bit. All of the sudden, Sara starts screaming, and I really think it’s because she has to wet herself, since we had had no toilet breaks. No. Big spider crawling right next to me. I freak out completely, find a reciept and try to squish the son of a bitch, but it slips away and crawls out of the sleeper. Except it didn’t really. So 5 minutes later it is back for more, and I brutally kill it in front of several locals just staring at the only blonde person on the bus, who is letting out a victorious laugh.
Our 19-hour bus ride turned into 22 hours, of course. We only had an apple and some crackers each all day, one pee break, and so many horny locals around us in this confined space. This was without a doubt a busride from Hell.
We didn’t sleep too well last night. A few horrifying screams from the bazaar outside woke us up. My legs are red, itchy and bumpy, and it’s probably from those bed bugs Sara was on about. We had to get the receptionist to get the lights to work again, and to ask for some warm water. This is how you take a bath here:
Complimentary breakfast. I am falling in love with masala chai.
At this point, we don’t really want to go out and be scared and stared at, but we do have to go do something with our day, at least eat some food. We pack a few rupees each and my iPhone. Right outside our hostel is the main bazar – something we apparently weren’t aware of until we step out of the alley that was so dark and creepy a few hours earlier – and it’s super busy, crowded and aggressive – it’s scary. A few months before we ended up on this very bazar, a Danish woman was raped here. People are staring at us, yelling and honking because we are in the way no matter where we are, and some guys even follow us a little bit. Suddenly my entire right side is wet – someone has thrown a bucket of water on me. I much later realise that it was probably unintentional – people often throw buckets of water on the drying streets – but as I look down on my bright red tunic and my 40 denier tights that are drenched in water, I feel as if I have offended a lot of people by dressing this provocative – and it’s the most modest thing in my backpack!
A bit away from all the noise and people, we find a fast food place that seems busy and filled with locals. That’s usually a good sign, so we go in. At this point though, all the people and the business of the place are making me feel very anxious. I don’t want to be stared at anymore, and especially not when I have no idea what I am doing. What are all these things on the menu? Where can we sit? How do you even order? I get it together, and we end up having a Chinese platter, out of all things. Our first meal in India is Chinese! And it is beyond spicy! We can’t even eat more than like 1/3 of the whole thing.
We study our map with great frustration, and end up asking two young girls at the table next to us to point out our location on the map. Then we head out to find some things that are worth to look at. We meet several guys that walk besides us, asking about us and giving us advice. While this is certainly nice of them, these men are strangers, and the warnings and bad stories we have been offered prior to coming here, are constantly in the back of our minds. We try to ignore them as much as we can, and never reveal anything truthful about us, just to give ourselves a sense of protection. We end up having this whole story made up – we’re sisters-in-law from Norway, who are going to meet up with our husbands in Southern India.
While trying to find our way to the temple Laxmi Narayan Birla Mandir, I not only step in dog poo, we also meet Naresh, a very helpful guy studying in Delhi. He takes us some of the way and says he hopes to meet us later.
We go to our very first temple. It is beautiful, but odd. For one, I am not used to walking around barefoot in public. Witnessing religious acts like praying also make me super uncomfortable, especially as I have no idea how to behave around a man on his knees. Do I avoid the entire room he is in so I wont disturb him?
On our way back, we run into Naresh again. He is telling us that getting some traditional Indian clothes will be a good idea, and we agree. He then takes us to a “hard to find” factory with Indian clothing by the RK Ashram Mark metro station. It is a small alley that leads to a tiny, dirty street full of buildings that are probably shops just like the one we walk into. An older Indian woman welcomes us, sits us down on a comfortable bench and offers us masala chai and cold water. She is very nice, asks us what we’re looking for, and has her young assistants pulling out one beautiful piece of fabric after another. We decide on a few pieces, and she sends us and some young girls into her office, where we can try them on. We absolutely have to come out after every wardrobe change, so everyone can see and compliment us. At one point, I am trying on a Punjabi dress that Sara has just worn, and the older woman isn’t afraid to tell me she doesn’t think it’s my color. Well, at least she’s being honest.
Naresh claims that it is much cheaper to buy clothes at a local factory rather than in a fancy store, which is the reason we’ve followed him this far, but I end up spending 7500 rupees on a purple Punjabi dress and a red sari (just the shawl though)! It has been a great experience though, and I even learned how to do the sari.
Naresh – who patiently has been waiting for us this whole time! – calls his uncle who is a Tuk Tuk driver and takes us to India Gate and the President’s House. His “uncle” is also super nice, and they give us plenty of advice on safety, saving money, culture etc. Of course I don’t remember anything well enough to pass on to you guys, sorry. What is really cool about this ride around Delhi to see the sights, is that we see monkeys running around in the streets, and bats hanging in the trees – all this is just like one giant casual zoo. An expensive one to get into, may I add.
As the sun is setting, and we are too paranoid to stay out after dark in this mad city, we need to find some dinner and get back to the hostel. Naresh recommends a local vegetarian restaurant, and takes us there to get a thali plate to go for 120 rupees each. We offer Naresh some too as a thanks, but he declines. With our white bags of food, we get dropped off by the alley to our hostel, and we tip the “uncle” 200 rupees. As we hand over 500 rps to Naresh as thanks, he yet again declines, saying “then we wouldn’t be friends, and I wouldn’t be happy“, even though he had earlier joked that he’d rather have money than dinner when we offered. We go to our room and have our first Indian meal in India – amazing, dirt cheap thali:
Super photogenic food
What started as a scary trip to see a temple ended up being a great experience. We have new, India-appropriate clothes, we’ve seen monuments and buildings we wouldn’t have bothered to go see otherwise, and we met a great tuk tuk driver and Naresh, who made us feel safer and a lot less lost. Thank you Naresh!