Monday, March 29, 2010

I wouldn't say it's better in the Bahamas, but it could be worse...

The day before last, I had a day off in Nassau, a criminally over-developed island habitually besieged by sun-burned cruise ship passengers and bored Miamians fresh off of gambling junkets. Not surprisingly, it is not my top pick for a vacation destination, but when in Rome, or some such cliché… In other words, I had no choice but to make the best of it.

My generic chain hotel had hand written signs at the activity desks offering a snorkeling/ lunch/ booze cruise for $60.  I like snorkeling, have a habit of eating lunch when time permits and am loathe to turn down an open bar, so this was among the easier decisions I had made this week.

The passengers on board were a mixture of spring breakers, Midwestern cruise folks and assorted singles, such as myself, Ekaterina, the Brazilian girl on a beach destination tour of the Caribbean and Alex, the Kenyan banking whiz on a last lost weekend before taking a new job in New York.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Country #83: Ten reasons you should stop what you are doing and visit Cartagena right now.

1. The walled city is a UNESCO world heritage site and justifiably so. It is one of those places that has, in an odd twist of fate, benefited from years of poverty. The historic fortifications and colonial architecture were never subjected to the whims of modernization and thus remain in much the same state as they were in 16th and 17th century.

It is still possible to walk along the walls and ramparts admiring, to one side, the Caribbean and to the other, the colorful historic town. When that gets old, one can visit museums dedicated to the gold or emerald trade, or less romantically, to the practices of the Inquisition. Or if museums are not to your liking, it is possible to simply stroll through the charming little lanes, knowing that in a town this small, the probability of getting lost (even for the directionally challenged, such as myself) is slim.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Amritsar: the final chapter

At this point, it has now taken me longer to blog about India than it did to actually plan and go on the trip itself. It would be nice to wax poetic about how this is due to the indescribable beauty and mystery we witnessed throughout our travels, but the truth lies closer to the facts that twelve cities= twelve blog posts and I am a procrastinator. Those immutable impediments aside, I have finally reached the end of the Indian adventure.

On the same day that Laura and Lena were boarding flights home, I was hopping a train up to Amritsar, the holiest Sikh city in the northern region of Punjab. It was now late December and the temperature was dropping sharply, which combined with exhaustion from a pretty hectic schedule, had me sick and coughing like tuberculosic chain smoker. This was justifiably stressing the mother of the sweet, quiet boy who was seated next to me on the train for a five hour ride. I felt bad for them both every time she came over to the boy with a new batch of vitamins for him to take.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Delhi Dilemma

There is the old refrain “Leave the best for last” and then there is our approach to the city of Delhi which went more along the lines of “Put it off until you can’t put it off no more.” We heard and read so many discouraging things about this major city, from tourists and Indians alike, that we would have been perfectly content to skip it altogether.

The problem was that when determining a route through India, we had to account for the fact that three travelers were coming from three different parts of the world (in our case, the US, Romania and the Ukraine) and had no choice but to meet there. This did not mean, however, that we had to stay there. I flew into Delhi direct from Chicago and after a brief eight hour stay in a hostel whose décor could best be described as “prison chic”, I met the girls at the domestic terminal where we immediately boarded a flight for Varanasi.

Three weeks later, we had reached the point where we had been to nine cities in Northern India and our time was running out. Based on logistic necessity, we were to end back where we started, in dreaded Delhi. We gave ourselves three days of sightseeing and last minute errands before my friends headed home and I took a train to my last stop, Amritsar.