30 May - 31 May 2011 Khanarbal





South Asia
Republic of Incredible India, the world's biggest democrazy
Jammu & Kashmir
Kashmir Valley
Khanarbal
Hotel Friends' Plaza +919858711473
Adequate and clean double room for only INR 400.- or US$ 9.10 per night.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Hotel Friends' Plaza in Khanarbal and for directions:


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Overnighting and exploring the non-descript village of Khanarbal, feasting on fresh and delicate Kashmiri cherries and learning from the locals about the modern history of the Vale of Kashmir, the contested jewel of South Asia’s northernmost region, with its very obvious police/military presence and frequent acts of violence, whose lakes, fertile valleys and remote, snow-covered peaks have remained the single most important cause of the Kashmir conflict between Pakistan and India ever since 1949 (including some nuclear sabre rattling), while arguments for Kashmir’s autonomy have periodically dominated the political agenda and the aspirations of the hospitable local people, and demands like “Go, India, Go!” or “We Want Freedom!” could be seen written onto the road in white paint.



Taking a rugged regional bus from Khanarbal's bus stop to Srinagar’s dirty, dusty and heavily polluted Batmaloo General bus stand (60 km, 2 ½ hours, INR 35.- per person), spotting en-route (i) beautiful women clad in colourful kameez and churidars tending the fields, (ii) ordinary men clad in cheapish banker’s outfit publicly urinating without any sense of shame and (iii) grumpy Indian soldiers clad in primitive flak jackets guarding the Kashmiri people against Delhi’s invisible enemies, jumping thereafter in a city bus (INR 12.- per person) bound for Lake Dal, witnessing Srinagar’s rampant urbanisation and bumping eventually into tout and boatman Farooq +919797011459 and his elegant water taxi aka shikara “Phool Aur Pather” (INR 100.- for one hour) who reliably helped us to find a suitable and cheap houseboat for a week.




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25 May - 30 May 2011 Bhadarwah





South Asia
Republic of Incredible India, the world's biggest democrazy
Jammu & Kashmir
Bhadarwah aka Nagon Ki Bhoomi or Place of Snakes 
Hotel Broadway +919419224585
Adequate double room with private balcony for INR 500.- or US$ 11.40 per night.
Friendly and helpful staff; very good English.
Beer: 500-ml cans of chilled Haywards 5,000 Super Strong Beer (c. 8.5 % alc./vol.) for INR 60.- or US$ 1.20 per large can from the town's only bottle store.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Hotel Broadway in Bhadarwah and for directions:









Exploring the beautiful and sleepy mountain town of Bhadarwah (touted as “Little Kashmir Valley”) with its friendly, mixed Muslim and Hindu community, meeting our friend Kalyan from the Bhadarwah Development Authority (“Bhadarwah - Heaven Untouched”) +919419169216 who invited us to visit Bhadarwah’s annual cultural festival (crudely politicised with patriotic pro-Hindu overtones and interspersed with nationalistic propaganda speeches by some local big wigs, but still authentic enough, with us being the only foreign visitors amongst hundreds of excited locals), shrugging off the heavy police and military presence and enjoying the cultural shows: (i) applauding the brilliant folk dancers perform ecstatically the local dhakku and ghurai dances, (ii) resonating to the rhythm of dhols and bells, (iii) watching the Kashmiri wrestling contest which happened 35 km away from the untouched heaven in the picturesque and remote Jai Green Valley at the breathtaking altitude of 2,500 m above sea level, (iv) listening to sweet Chaista and many other talented singers and folk musicians at the local song contest and (v) visualising Abdullah Noman and his bhand pather from the razed village of Pachigam "...where Boonyi danced and Shivshankar sang and Shalimar the clown walked the tightrope as if treading upon air..."

“The inevitable triumph of illusion over reality
that was the single most obvious truth about the history of the human race.” 



Hiking the scenic environs (i) south of Bhadarwah near the majestic, snow-covered Kailash Kund peak (altitude: 3,980 m) and (ii) north of Bhadarwah above Chabra, a traditional mountain village surrounded by thick deodar-cedar forests on very steep slopes and noticing that due to its anti fungal and insect repellent properties, rooms made of deodar wood are used to store meat and food grains like oats and wheat in Chabra.



Taking the worn Bee Tee Gupta bus from Bhadarwah to Batote (80 km, 2 ½ hours, INR 70.- per person), located on the National Highway and famous for its kidney beans (!), thereafter a crowded local no-name bus from Batote to Ramban (30 km, 1 hour, INR 20.- per person), famous for nothing, thereafter another local no-name bus from Ramban to Banihal (30 km, 1 ½ hours, INR 30.- per person) and sharing eventually a 4x4 Tata Sumo for the final leg from Banihal through the 2,500-m long strategic Jawahar Tunnel, the longest road tunnel in India, to Khanarbal near Anantnag (70 km, 2 hours, INR 100.- per person), already located inside the once beautiful but increasingly pockmarked Kashmir Valley: (i) ugly and messy construction areas, (ii) unfinished road works, (iii) heavy truck traffic on narrow mountain roads, (iv) litter, dirt and neglicence everywhere and (v) countless sinister police and military facilities with “... fences and barbed wire and sandbags and latrines ... Brasso and spit and canvas and metal and the smell of semen in the bunkhouses…”, at least according to Salman Rushdie.



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23 May - 25 May 2011 Jammu





South Asia
Republic of Incredible India, the world's biggest democrazy
Jammu & Kashmir
Jammu
Hotel Shubam +911912578651
Adequate double room for INR 600.- or US$ 13.60 per night.
Beer: 650-ml bottles of chilled Kingfisher Premium Lager (c. 4.8 % alc./vol.) for INR 72.- or US$ 1.50 per large bottle and Kingfisher Strong (c. 7.8 % alc./vol.) for INR 72.- or US$ 1.50 per large bottle in any of the many wine shops in town.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Hotel Shubam in Jammu and for directions:









Ticking off the anaemic must-see sights of the once graceful old town of Jammu, nowadays the winter capital of Jammu & Kashmir and a bit of a craphole: (i) the 1857 CE Raghunath Temple with its seven shrines and gold plated interiors, (ii) the 1883 CE Rambiresvar Temple with a 75-m high tower, and (iii) the old Bahu Fort, perched on a hilltop overlooking the Tawi River and manned with an impressive garrison of pertinacious beggars, remarkable cripples and slimy touts who altogether lie in ambush and wait for unsuspecting visitors from far and wide.



Taking a worn and bollocksed P.K.Vaid Bus, fully fitted with all sorts of protective charms such as chillies and lemons hung on strings, from Jammu’s Indira Chowk to Bhadarwah upon Neeru (c. 200 km, 8 hours, INR 150.- per person), a valley of bewitching natural beauty and panoramic vistas, and for the first time in Asia, spotting snow (on the Ashapathi Mountains which loom over the Bhadarwah Valley).



Click below for a summary of this year's travels
2011 Map Konni & Matt
 

Click below and see more Konni & Matt Pictures 


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20 May - 22 May 2011 New Delhi





South Asia
Republic of Incredible India, the world's biggest democrazy
New Delhi
Paharganj
Small but clean and adequate double room, including wifi and breakfast, for only INR 690.- or US$ 15.30 per night. Friendly and competent staff.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Smyle Inn in New Delhi, which we would recommend, and for directions:
N 28° 38.50' E 077° 12.88'










Catching up on overdue admin work (travel blog, photos and financials) and deciding to team up with the Amazon Services LLC/EU Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for websites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.de, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.ca, thereafter exploring the exotic and anarchic heart of Delhi’s backpackerland, Paharganj, squeezed between wholesalers and cloth merchants, cheek by jowl in the ultra-narrow lanes opposite the New Delhi Railway Station, and trying to understand Lutyens’ and Baker’s silly dream that “… first and foremost it is the spirit of British sovereignty which must be imprisoned in its stone and bronze... ”, in view of the fact that simple and sophisticated, traditional and modern, East and West were all juxtaposed in New Delhi.
Leaving the crowded streets and the perceptible air pollution of New Delhi by rail, thus zipping with the air-conditioned, ultra-modern (equipped with laptop/mobile chargers) and cheap Delhi Metro (INR 8.- per person) from the New Delhi Railway Station to the Old Delhi Railway Station, taking the Shalimar overnight express (fare for the 600-km long trip: INR 964.- or US$ 21.90.- per person in “2-tier a/c, sleeper class, 2A”) from the Old Delhi Railway Station to Jammu upon Tawi, the second largest city in the state of Jammu & Kashmira Bosnia-like cocktail of Hindu Pundits, Shia Muslims and Buddhist Tibetans, which marks the transition between the Himalayas in the north and the dusty plains of the Punjab in the south, bridging these two extremities by a series of scrub covered hills, forested mountain ranges and deep river valleys, and reading en-route in Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar, the Clown: “In Kashmir it is paradise itself that is falling; heaven on earth is being transformed into a living hell...”


Click below for more blog posts about Asia's big cities
18 Jun - 23 Jun 2013 Kyoto
22 May - 04 Jun 2013 Seoul
13 Mar - 18 Apr 2013 Bangkok
13 Dec - 17 Dec 2012 Hong Kong
08 Dec - 13 Dec 2012 Canton

Click below for a summary of this year's travels
2011 Map Konni & Matt



Facing India
© Konni & Matt


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