The notorious India-Pakistan border

Ive seen some bizarre traditions like the voodoo ceremonies in Burkina Faso, Womens wrestling in Bolivia, a rat worshipping Temple in India and spinning Soufis in Sudan, but the closing ceremony at the Wagah border between India and Pakistan is definitely on among the top of those experiences.

I had cought a six dollar uber from Lahore city center and arrived just minutes before the show was about to start. On the new stadium facing me from the Indian side there were thousands of spectators, and the smaller Pakistani stadium I was walking into was not even nearly half as big, but already shouting phrases like “Allahu akhbar” (also known as takbir) and Pakistan Zindabad (long live Pakistan) while first pumping and waving their white and green flags.

As if I was on a VIP list I was shown to a front row seat with excellent views of the show that was about to happen. While a one legged man was spinning around in circles and an angry looking kid was marching up and down with nazisalutelike gestures, eight to ten uniformed military men marched towards the border gate with straight backs, rifles in their hands and Black mohawk hats on their heads. After the two first ones had opened the gate, the soldiers came two by two in a fast paced march, and turning around at the gate while kicking their legs up high barely missing the heads of the Soldiers mirroring the pakistanis from the other side.

The feeling of sitting right by watching this daily show was almost indescribable. I got chills all over my back as if hell was about to break loose and all the thousands of spectators was going to be unleached to bash the s*** out of each other, but at the end the last guards gave a firm hsndshake to the soldiers of the opponent side, lowered their flags in a cross and closed the gates signalling that the show was over and everyone could leave.

All in all the appearance lasted for less than half an hour, but people come from all over the country to see this and sometimes wait up to 6 hours in line. I am glad to have seen in in person as it was a much stronger experience than I first had imagined and I have decided to come back, but to watch it from the Indian side next.

Saying Goodbye to India from Calcutta

After having literally two months of only sun, we were destined to have one single day of rain before we left. Magically enough, this came on our last day, when we were about to leave for Thailand. It was not only the weather which had made us ready to leave the country, don’t get us wrong, we have absolutely loved India. Every day of our journey, we have gotten one step closer to adapting to the culture and now we would have to reset ourself for something completely different.

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A map of the whole trip we made in India

Our luggage has also just been stripped of all our sleeping bags and warm clothes, which we have sent home or given to local people. As Calcutta is one of the cities closest to the Bangladesh border, we found there to be more homeless people, probably that had come over from the even poorer country in the East. The sight that met us when arriving at Calcutta train terminal was just a sea of homeless people sleeping on the bare ground.

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Even though the price level will be much higher in South- East Asia, we should have no problem finding some cheap summer clothing to buy when we arrive in Thailand. With the brief video attached to the next post, we will try to give you a small insight into the life we have been living the last couple of months. 

Varanasi: the Beating Heart of the Hindu Universe

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The city of Varanasi centers on the holy river of Ganges, where people from all over India come to wash away a lifetime of sins. It’s the perfect place for “people watching”, where you can mingle with the fascinating mixture of people who come here not only for a ritual bath but also to wash clothes, do yoga, offer blessings, sell flowers, get a massage, take photos, play cricket, wash their buffaloes, improve their karma or simply just hang around. At night the same place evolves into a whole other world of lights and colors where intimate rituals like cremation and other ceremonies take place. We feel lucky to be able to witness something like this.
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After our two months in India, this is where we have come closest to a stereotypical Indian city, and the experiences from this city will live long in our memory. 
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Couchsurfing in Khajuraho

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Couchsurfing* was something we had wanted to do for a long time, but since the average standard of an Indian home can be quite different than we are used to, we were a little bit skeptical to try it here. We had earlier been contacted by a couchsurfer in Khajuraho who seemed genuinely nice. His name was Yogi and really wanted us to stay with him so he could show us his hometown. After a little consideration, we decided to make a stop on our way to Varanasi to meet him.
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We were positively surprised when he took us to his home and showed us his family as we felt very welcome right away. It also seemed like he had put a lot of thoughts and planning into our visit, as he had a full program of sightseeing and other activities ready for us to do. He drove us around on his motorcycle to see the erotic temples among others (as it was the city of Kamasutra) and together with his friend we also spent a moment sitting in the wheat field of his uncles farm discussing our travel experiences and the cultural differences between Norway and India.

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Before the day was over he had cooked lunch for us, and his family had taught us how to make egg curry and chapatti (Indian bread), which we had for dinner. It was an emotional moment when we had to say goodbye to him and his lovely family, but we were also ready to get some sleep on our night train to Varanasi.
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* Couchsurfing: a webpage where one can look up people who are willing to offer their couch to travelers in exchange of friendships and cultural experiences.