When You’re Down, Someone Will Rescue You

I’m going to die here. Perish in a steamy room that smells like an open sewer, in a city planned by schizophrenics, in a hotel where the only scenery next door is a junkyard for defunct cars.

I opened my eyes, staring at the ceiling fan whirring above.

I survived SARS in Vietnam.

I emerged unscathed from a dengue fever outbreak in Brazil.

H1N1 never came knocking.

I can’t shake this.

After my birthday, it reappeared. The burning hotness on the back of my neck. The fissures forming on my arm. Dammit, it was time to do something.

But when you’re alone in an unknown country, sometimes you freeze.

I didn’t know what to do. I come off brazen, an impulsive adventurer who gets on that boat with no lifejacket or hang-glides even though she gets vertigo.

Nah, this time I was scared.

Nothing was right. By now, I should be in Rishikesh, not waffling in Agra. By April, I wanted to be in either Sri Lanka or Thailand. It’s now March 31.

The blog is suffering. Who has time to craft words under duress? Shit, no.

Back to panic mode, I did what I know how to do best. Decided to leave.

I was supposed to stay at a Mystique Moments in Delhi earlier in March, but that got nixed because my Scottish travel companion convinced me to stay in the horrible Pahar Ganji area. Sure, it’s central. If you can endure tout after tout badgering you non-stop.

I remember the owner of Mystique oozing with niceness from his previous emails. I recall his guesthouse being

March 31st, 2011|Categories: Life, New Delhi|Tags: , , , , |50 Comments

Cultural Idiocy – Water 101 in India

Water is water, correct? Think again. Water protocol can vary from country to country. Find out India’s methodology:

If you want to view this video on YouTube, or watch other Nomadic Chick videos, access my channel directly.

March 27th, 2011|Categories: Travel Tips|Tags: , , , , |12 Comments

The Taj, Agra Fort and Birthdays

Yesterday was my birthday, a significant one, too.

I’ve never actually revealed my age on this site, mainly because it pains me to be pigeonholed. I do act stupidly young or stupid at times; why not leave the age question blank?

March 21, 2011, marks a turning point in my life.

Ready? This chick just turned 40. Gasp!!

40 is ancient. To a 20 year old. 40 means I forget more years than I remember. Supposedly.

Categorize me now. Love it, I hope. Or maybe you knew all along? I fooled nobody.

On this auspicious birthday, I treated myself to the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Seeing the Taj has been a dream of mine for over ten years. Did it measure up to this birthday girl’s expectations?

Taj Mahal

I woke at an ungodly hour to touch the spiritual. 4:30! I complain about sleep a lot, yet you’ve got to understand. Cougars need their rest to prowl young boys at night.

I was the first tourist to arrive at the west gate, vaguely wondering if there weren’t many coming. Agra is a confused city. A jaunt down the street will tell you how. Merchant stalls, abandoned cars, a pile of tires, then a HOTEL! Off to the side, in an alley, usually fashioned from a smelly apartment building about to be condemned. That’s Agra.

So, I hadn’t seen any foreigners.

Only thing worth snapping before dawn

By 6:15, the ticket window opened. I peered behind me and there they were. Foreigners multiplying like a locust hive.

Ticket prices are not budget-minded. 750

March 22nd, 2011|Categories: Agra|Tags: , , , , , , |31 Comments

Holi is About People, Not Place

Holi started with an invitation and ended with a laugh.

I knew there was something special about Viral and Nupur when I observed them on the train to Agra.

At first, they fooled me — he wore western clothes, a typical t-shirt and pants that an avid hiker might choose. Her salwar sung with earth tones, an array of colors for the human eye to feast on. I filed them away as a typical Indian couple.

Nupur, her father & Virul (camera smudged with Holi goodness)

Then they touched, a tender caress that only two people in love could conjure, a rarity between husband and wife in India.  They laughed — gently teasing each other. What I saw were two equals in intelligence and mutual respect.

We began sharing stories during the three-hour train journey, allowing time to melt to nothing. This primed me up — nothing is more fun than learning about someone in a certain place or time.

Their story? They married last June — an arranged one  — yet they discovered kindred spirits, falling for each other quickly. She also kept her last name. Both work for American companies, live in Bengaluru, and traveled to Russia last year for part business, part honeymoon. More importantly, they invited me to spend Holi with them. Agra is Nupur’s childhood home. Double score!

I’ll admit it, Agra was the last place I wanted to spend Holi. It seemed a lonely place to mark a festival. Since volunteering, I’ve felt spent. Even slightly lost on what to do with myself.

But a smile, an invitation, can alter your feelings about wandering for the sake of wandering.

March 20th, 2011|Categories: Agra, Culture|Tags: , , , , |15 Comments

Avoiding Scams at an Indian Railway Station

I sailed into Delhi two days ago to finally escape my Goa misery, and ended up sharing a pasable room in Pahar Ganji, across from the New Delhi Railway Station.

Delhi swelled with Holi madness as female foreigners got doused with plastic bag water balloons yesterday. For some reason, many were aimed at my arse. Dirty birds.

It was time to get outta the hotbed of Delhi and onto Agra. I hauled my packs to the New Delhi Station at a sobering hour when the only humans awake were chai wallahs.

You always prepare yourself for who might hoodwink you, but I was still surprised.

Let me give you the lowdown:

They Lie

I decided to compare train ticket prices from New Delhi to Agra at the travel agent attached to my hotel. The proprietor seemed like a decent guy, offering my Scottish friend and I a clean room with a scalding hot shower for 600 per night. When it came to booking a train ticket, he balked and claimed there were no trains to Agra, citing some demonstration was blocking the lines. He then slid across a receipt for a bus ticket to the tune of 500 RS, a signal for me to pay up.

Truth: Agra trains leave every hour from Delhi and lines are never blocked unless a major disaster happens. Take note of distance when booking trains or buses. There is no way Delhi to Agra would cost 500 RS, more like 140 to 250 RS (depends on method of travel). I found out after there is a demonstration at one of the lines, but not the one I wanted.

March 19th, 2011|Categories: New Delhi, Travel Tips|Tags: , , |18 Comments

Traveler’s Bad Luck in 5 Easy Steps

#1 Sickness

The tally: two bouts of traveler’s diarrhea, one crater on my arm, pestilent boils on the back of my neck and face. When you own a travel website the worst thing you could do is rant about it zoned out on antibiotics. Oh wait, it’s me and that’s what I do.

#2 Theft

Do you ever feel trapped in a David Lynch film? One day I woke to discover a dwarf dancing in the kitchen. Replace dwarf with a toothless Indian man clutching a cloth saying “I here to clean”. He sashayed into my room, I shooed him out. He glided into the spare room thinking we were going to play Catch the Intruder. Instead of Special Agent Dale Cooper, Christine burst in with a baby on her hip, and began pointing at him in staccato. “What are you doing in here? You’re not supposed to be here. You can’t just come in here. Go!!” It took her two times to make him understand ‘out’. I channeled Laura Palmer’s homecoming photo, watching this scene with benign detachment. It wasn’t until the aftermath that I noticed my iPhone had vanished from the kitchen table. Since then, I eye any toothless, Indian man with suspicion, wondering if he’ll pull out a neon pink iPhone.

#3 Accidents

Back to drugs, really refrain from operating any type of vehicle. It may seem effortless, even cool to zip around on a scooter with glee because you paid 150 rupees instead of the normal 250. As you smugly enjoy that feeling of fleecing someone, coupled with drugs, bad shit can happen. In my case, it

March 14th, 2011|Categories: Goa, Life|Tags: , |37 Comments