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Thursday, February 2, 2017

PEARL'S ASHES: Journey to India

CHAPTER 5:  Taj Mahal


[Yes, I promised a new chapter of my next book, PEARL'S ASHES, would appear every Wednesday.  Let me retract that statement and indicate that I would try to post this on that day, but might need to do this either on Tuesdays or Thursdays, instead, and, surely, at least once/week.]

Pearl's Ashes #8, at the Taj Mahal, can be read in it's entirety by clicking on my 26 January 2013 article in this blog site.  Here is how it starts:

I've been around the world around ten times.  There was once an airlines called Pan American World Airways.   Pearl and I took our first around the world journey on PanAm01, westward, way back in the '70's.  On 17January2010 I began my global adventure to Vietnam, Cambodia, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, New Delhi, Barcelona, Munich, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, London, DC, New York City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.  By this day 130 countries had clicked on this blog site and  I was averaging less than 100 visitors/day.  Today, I'm up to 211 countries and 500 visitors/day.

I wrestled with whether I should ask permission from the Indian government to allow me to lay Pearl's ashes at the Taj Mahal.  Then, rationality prevailed and I decided to do all of this surreptitiously, for they would have said no anyway and taken forever to do this.

I might add that as of today, three years later, I'm up to 220 countries and, over the past couple of months, averaging perhaps 1000 viewers daily.  To get to PA#8 in 2010 I passed through South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.  I did not drop her ashes at any of these places because my original focus was to do this only at the Taj Majal, Mount Kilimanjaro and Machu Picchu, sites Pearl wanted to visit, but didn't, mostly because I don't particularly like India, Africa and South America.  These other two would come on future world journeys.  Since then, however, I expanded the ceremonies to locations Pearl had or would have enjoyed, and am up to 50 or so.

A few highlights of my the way to India:
  • Incheon International Airport was the #1 airport in the world.  Operational from 2005, it has historically been among the very best, last year #2 to Singapore's Changi Airport.
  • I joined Curtis Lee (right) on a Southeast Asia Tour.  He was in the Vietnam War and wanted to see the changes.  He and Laverne were good friends of Pearl, and more recently, they have inquired about moving into 15 Craigside.  Unfortunately, at the China Beach (Danang) stop I caught Ho Chi Minh's Revenge.  Ciprofloxacin worked well, indeed.
  • Angkor Wat in Cambodia was a worthy stop, although not as spectacular as I expected.  It was in the Raffles Hotel at Siem Reap that I learned the difference among people's of this region:  Vietnamese were hard workers, Cambodians were hard watchers and Laotians were hard sleepers.  Also I was surprised to hear that they all don't like the Russians, fear the Chinese, still have negative thoughts about the Japanese and very much favor Americans.
  • Thailand is a wonderful country, and the Four Seasons in Chiang Mai is one of my three best world hotels.  I had  authentic Japanese wagyu beef for dinner two nights in a row, paid for by the tour, which was a Tauck.  While almost always hot, the temples are incredible sights and I show this Emerald Buddha because it is seriously forbidden to take photos here and I happened to take this shot because I wasn't totally aware of this restriction.
  • Read my top ten topics of interest so far of South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.  The most remarkable was China Beach:  100 yards of white sand extending a distance from Waikiki to Wahiawa, 19 miles.  Eight years ago they were thinking about casinos.  There are now ten hotels with them just in Danang, which is China Beach.
Then came India.  Amazingly enough, my initial report from Delhi, INDIA SUCKS, posted seven years ago, is the current #1 article being pinged on today.  Click on that and read the comments.  So I find my way to the Le Meridien hotel, which was truly an oasis.  There are two more articles worth your perusal:



To again quote:

The drive of 4 hours to Agra was a nightmare. Early in the morning, a red light means please consider slowing down, but, if there appears to be no crossing traffic, whiz through as fast as possible. The 130 mile ride was mostly down a four lane highway, with a few complications. Ox, goat and horse driven carts; wandering cattle and water buffalo; way overloaded trucks; tuk-tuks that carry not two people, but up to 20; congested towns; people running across the street and horrendous air pollution (it was smokey the whole way). For transportation buffs, you will see every possible mode of transport since the dawn of civilization, including trains that seem to move along well and, above, airplanes, which I only imagined were there, for the haze is worse than when the volcano emission envelopes Honolulu.

We finally arrive in Agra and the Taj Mahal:


No, I'm not dropping Pearl's ashes on the Taj Mahal.  I found a convenient spot and without fanfare tossed that gelcap in a safe location that even the Indian government might have accepted.  Wait till you read of my incident at Machu Picchu.  On the return:

The most exciting part of the whole trip was the ride back to Delhi, all 6 hours of it. This was the equivalent of the road through hell, again, but worse. They say that just at the moment of a catastrophe, time slows, like, say, your car meeting another head-on at 60 miles per hour. To survive in this traffic, the driver needs to be intrepid, no, make that, reckless. He needs to fearlessly pass cars and animals and toot his horn as much as possible. Time virtually stopped for me at least a dozen times today.

The miracle of it all is that not once did our van even scrape another vehicle. I did not see an accident all day. However, an hour into Delhi we ran into an electrical storm. If you never have been through one of these, you're in luck. In one town there was a siren blowing. Maybe tornadoes? Lightning hit a pole in front of us and sparks fell on the road. But, I landed at the Le Meridien, which, I said yesterday, is an oasis.

But, aha, I still had to get out of the country, starting with:

I left the Delhi Le Meridien at 6:30AM and was taken by a hotel car (free) to the airport.  Check in was terrific, for Lufthansa upgraded me to first class.With some trepidation, I nevertheless passed through customs with ease.  I was about to have a croissant and capuchino breakfast in the Lufthansa lounge when a uniformed officer asked to see my boarding pass (BP).  He then ordered me to accompany him, for there was a problem with my check-in baggage.  Maybe another extortion scheme?

I imagined all sorts of worse case scenarios.  Maybe someone had somehow snuck in a pound of heroin or a bomb into my baggage.  We passed through one security gate, where they stamped my BP.  At this point another uniformed officer with a rifle accompanied us.  We went through two more security areas, where they again stamped the BP, into the bowels of the airport.  Then I thought, oh no, my “India Sucks” blog really pissed off someone and they were going to execute me. However, Cambodia, maybe, but certainly not India.  We made it to where bags accumulate, and there was my suitcase.

Well, if you're interested in reading further, click on 

FROM DELHI TO MUNICH TO BARCELONA

I did escape from India, but flew into a serious Munich snowstorm.  This final adventure for the day itself was dramatic.

PA#9 next week?  Haleakala, the House of the Rising Sun.

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1 comment:

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