Archive for March, 2011

March 17, 2011

Singapore: Where everything is illegal but anything happens

Happy St. Patricks Day! Where is my corn beef and cabbage?? But seriously, I would have died for that today! We left Singapore late last night and I havent made it out of bed for anything other than meals! I loved Singapore! What a New York like feeling place! Expensive and trendy, the only reason I knew it wasnt New York was because it was incredibly clean!! For one day in a port I felt like I had been there for a week! We got off the ship as soon as we possibly could, sat for a half hour in customs and went directly to Starbucks. I really dont like Starbucks that much but to have real coffee felt amazing. We got in a taxi and had him bring us to Orchard Street. (We think America has a lot of malls, I can tell you it is nothing compared to there!) We literally just criss-crossed through the streets from mall to mall! I didnt end up buying anything because everything was stuff I could buy in America and probably for cheaper! We then headed to Raffels hotel, this hotel is known for its Singapore Slings. And for 25 dollars a drink they clearly make more than enough. We all had two drinks, just because we were in Singapore! We then headed to the botanical gardens/bird garden, it was very green and very pretty! We didnt pay for the guide so we just walked around and looked at the flowers and birds. It felt so homey since all we have been seeing for months is grassless areas and dirt! We then headed to the nicest hotel in Singapore and just walked around inside. Once again, it was another mall, but also had a casino, ice skating rink, 5 restaurants, and an amazing infinity pool with a view of the entire city! It was amazing! We quickly left there in order to keep us from spending any money and went directly to China Town. When we got there we found out it was very dead! Apparently most restaurants/bars dont open until late in the evening because they all stay open til 4 AM. We sat down with these guys from England that were in Singapore looking for oil and had a long conversation with them about oil. Who knew that could be so interesting? We stayed there for a while and then headed to Clark Que, an area known for very trendy bars. We met up with some more Semester at Sea-ers and found a place called the Clinic, you get your drinks in syringes and IVs (clearly not real ones), and your seats are wheelchairs. They dont put the IVs in your arms and syringes didnt actually have needles attached, no worries. It was a very cool area, it was covered completely by these flower looking canopy and had an area with censored water fountains you could walk through. It was very trendy and the perfect area to end the day! We headed back to the ship and spent a hour in line going through customs! We made it back in time and none of us got dock time!!!

March 17, 2011

Yeah buddy rolling like a rickshaw

Well the week from hell is over. Okay that was a little dramatic but I have never been to a place that I have continuously felt that I needed to have my guard up at every moment. There were good times and there were awful times, I enjoyed seeing the Taj at both sunrise and sunset the most and the worst part was watching a young boy being beat with a bat and not being able to do a single thing. The food was amazing until my body decided it wasnt. The shopping was great; especially when you could buy so much and not feel guilty about it since about 45 US dollars was about 1 Rupee!!!

Day 1: It took forever to get off the ship, we had to do face to face immigration with the customs agents and to get through 900 people it was timely! We got off the ship around 11 AM and headed directly to the rickshaws for the market. I have never been more scared in my entire life; we were in a 3-wheel vehicle weaving in and out of traffic. Im unsure if this guy thought we were in a hurry or what but we were going twice the speed as everyone else and at one point I just closed my eyes because I dont think my heart could take anymore moments of not breathing. It was a fun experience, especially since it was what we had been hearing about for weeks. I was so excited to see the market I almost jumped out of the rickshaw as it was still moving. The market was basically the same items being sold at every place, it was just how much the merchant wanted to bargain that made us decide on what we wanted to buy. The first day I left with Aladdin like pants, which I plan on never taking off when I get home and then one of the countries customary shirts. (It is tunic like with a really cool pattern) We spent about 3 hours just walking around the market; everyone there was very nice and mostly left us alone. We felt after experiencing both the rickshaw and navigating throughout the market we deserved a drink. Our rickshaw driver (he ended up waiting for us when we shopped) brought us to a nice hotel where we were allowed to drink. It was an AMAZING hotel, we sat outside and ended up meeting some ladies from Belgium, one who has been to India 6 times and one who was there for the first time. They have been friends since college and decided to travel together since all their kids were either off at school or married. It was fun meeting them to see that people still do travel when they get older! A little while later a group of kids that were our age walked in, they were all from Chennai and they sat down to have a drink with us. We all shared how our lives were and learned how different they were from each other. Two of the kids there were actually married, they got married last year when they were 21 and they said that they were actually very late in their friend group to get married. I was shocked; hello I am almost 21 and have no intentions of getting married ANYTIME soon. We headed back to the ship quickly after to make sure we could get dinner; we ended up meeting up with a group of guys from the ship who got a taxi driver for the day and he wanted to take them all out that night. We ended up heading out with them and he brought us to his friends store who had AMAZING things, I ended up spending too much money but ended up with this huge elephant wall mural which I am in love with, and of course the elephant is orange, big surprise. We ended up just driving around Chennai that night, seeing everything and how dead it was at night. Everything in India closes around 11 PM, we were all stuck with nothing to do!

Day 2: We left for the airport at 4 AM, I was a big burst of energy after a good hour of sleep, not. I am still unsure of how we made it to our flight on time, we got to the airport at about 5 and it took us an hour to get our whole group of 30 through check-in and security and our flight left at 6:15. Everyone was just dead. We made it to Delhi by 9 and spent the day seeing the city. We visited many temples, many of which I understood nothing. The Indian tour guides were not very informative nor could we understand much. I took it for what it was and did a lot of wandering by myself. In these temples you saw a lot of symbols that in the US were considered very offensive. One of our guides explained that these symbols had very good meaning behind them until a man made them wrong. (Hitler) They still represent these symbols because they believe that they still mean good. We then visited the place Ghandi was cremated. It was a very peaceful place, and the greenest area I had seen in months! We got to the train station to head to Agra and we found out our train was 4 hours delayed and even after that they were unsure it was even going to show up. A train trip that was only supposed to take 2 hours turned into a 6 hour bus ride, to tell you the truth I couldnt have been happier to take that bus. The train station was full of homeless people and beggars, and I was scared the train would be just as dirty. I think I have turned into a germophobe! We got to our hotel and were all exhausted and hungry! We ordered room service and fell asleep almost instantly in these insanely comfortable beds. I think it formed to my body and didnt have one problem staying asleep.

Day 3: Woke up at sunrise to see the Taj Mahal at its finest and boy I can tell you, it was breath taking! It was almost empty there and it felt so peaceful. We experienced many slum dog millionaire moments from this point on. As we walked out of the Taj many children were running up to us trying to get us to buy stuff and you would see them run back to these older men to hand them the money. I felt so bad; they were all so dirty, running around with no shoes, I wanted to buy all the junk they were selling but I knew the money wasnt going to them. We headed back to the hotel for breakfast and I think I ate my weight in food. It was amazingomelets, pancakes, and bacon, it was delicious! We spent the rest of the day wasting time, or thats what it felt like. We went to Agra Fort, this was built when there was a disease going through India, and people with money were moved here to stay away from the disease. It felt like a castle and it had a perfect view of the Taj! We had lunch at a local restaurant and it was being decorated for a wedding they were having that night, it was apparently a lucky week to get married and they were double booking nights. I found in India they do a lot of things out of superstition, like getting married, touching the stairs before walking into a temple and even never wearing shoes. Okay well I dont know if thats a superstition or just an odd habit but it was everywhere! We went back to the Taj that night for sunset, another beautiful sight. It wasnt setting directly behind it but the reflection on it was amazing.

Day 4: Left the hotel relatively early, it felt like a really long day because we did nothing substantial. It was a lot of walking around and shopping. We ended up finding a coffee shop and dying over a white chocolate/milk chocolate mocha. It was the first real coffee drink I have had this entire trip and I LOVED IT. We also got a molten chocolate cake, the one that when you cut into it the chocolate drips out, another one of those amazing moments. We got back to the ship that day at about 1 AM, it felt AMAZING to take a real shower and feel clean, finally!

Day 5: I woke up early to try and get on a service project I didnt have a ticket for, and it was a success! I spent the day at a disabled childrens orphanage and I dont know the right word to describe it. We got there and met all the kids and the excitement in their eyes just took your breath away. They were all so dirty but so happy. When we got there we had a tour of both the kids side and the adult side, they call it a disabled childrens home but often times the kids never end up leaving and it is made into their home for life. We ended up cleaning up the place for a couple hours; we dusted, washed all the windows and cleaned the classrooms. It was heartbreaking to see where the kids slept at night, they all had one huge, wood bed, with no mattress and they all shared it. There was a wide variety of problems these kids had, some of them just had hearing problems but some of them had down syndrome so in my mind it doesnt seem like you should mix kids like that. After cleaning we ate lunch off banana leaves and with our hands, it was surprisingly really good! After lunch we had a couple hours to play with the kids, I ended up heading to the area they do physical therapy in and sat with the kids during their strenuous workouts. Kids there are so unlike kids in the US, they would cry silently even though you knew it was causing them so much pain. I would grab their hand and they would instantly get a smile on their face. If you would clap when they would finally get an exercise they would giggle so loudly! It made my heart so happy. At the end of the day we got to bring the group of kids with hearing problems back to the ship and give them ice cream, cookies, soda, and M&Ms. Their first sight of the ship caused their eyes to widen so big, but when they first step foot on it all you heard was their little feet start running, they could not get enough of it! Most of them had never seen a boat before so looking out our windows and seeing other boats that were in the port was the highlight of their day! Not once throughout the day did I see any of them whine, complain, or have the slightest look of unhappiness. It was such a rewarding day, I know that my help from that one day probably wont change their life but to know that they had fun made it so worth it. The left the boat around 6 and by 7 oclock I thought I was dying. At that point I had no idea I had food poisoning, dramatic me was convinced I had malaria.

Day 6: Missed this whole day due to food poisoningnothing to report ☹

All in all, I had an amazing time in India. I know that I wouldnt go if it had been my choice but I was glad I got that experience. It was hard walking through the streets seeing all these kids dirty, with no shoes begging for money and knowing if you gave them anything it wouldnt actually go to them. I hate the feeling of not being able to do anything but I know that in some countries things are out of your reach.