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VENTURIDE Newsletter #8 - January 2017
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2016 has been a great year...2017 will be even better with 8 more months to go!!

Dear family members, friends, contacts or colleagues,

As I have been on the road for exactly 4 months now, which represents a beautiful milestone in this 12 months adventurous journey, I would like to take today's opportunity to send my best wishes to all of you and thank you for your continued interest in
VENTURIDE.

Without your initial help and support, and without your kind words sent before or during the trip, my journey to realising this wonderful dream would have been different.

So far, things have been amazing and I am confident the next legs of the trip in South East Asia, Africa, South America, Central America and North America will be richer in emotions, discoveries, encounters and challenges.

To date, I have been very lucky. No illness, no bad encounters, no robberies, no broken elbow have crossed my path. Yes, as you know, the bike has had a tough ride but she is still up and running which is what I ask from her.

As we start this new year, I really want to share with you this adventure is the most adequate way, without overloading you with too much information. So feel free to drop me a note and share with me how you want to live this from where you are.

From a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, I send you my love!!

As usual, click here for the
Photo Album on India, or here for the Itinerary. The travel blog in French has been updated here.

Spotlight on India - My itinerary

Travelling in "developing" countries is not new to me as I was lucky enough to travel across South America in 2010 but I must say that I was exposed to different levels of poverty, dirt, inequalities and noise in the world's largest democracy where 17% of the world's population tries to "survive" instead of "live".  Ok, a small minority lives extravagantly and is ready to spend 75 million US Dollars in a wedding but most struggle to make ends meet. Below, I will highlight some of the structural reasons behind these inequalities.

As you can probably guess from this introduction, I have mixed feelings about India and whilst I presented previous countries in a positive way, I will struggle to maintain the same level of optimism when talking about India. My negative feeling about India might be due to the itinerary we chose with my girlfriend, but from what I read, it is quite a touristic "Triangle" for tourists who wish to visit Delhi, Varanasi and the Rajasthan region.

Ok, if we put aside the incessant noise, the extreme levels of dirt and pollution, the lack of manners from people, the lack of respect between themselves, the absence of customer service, the lack of accountability and work ethic, the high prices for low service for tourists, and we just focus on the historical sites, then India has a lot to offer. However, even if the entry fees for non nationals can be up to 28 times higher, you shouldn't expect to see a lot of information in the sites and you should expect to see at least 4cm of dirt on the furniture or objects.

Delhi: In terms of the cities or sites you may want to consider, I would invite to spend 48 hours in Delhi where most of the time should be spent in Old Delhi. The day to day scenes in this part of the town will bring you back to the Medieval times. Visiting the Red Fort (Unesco), Rashtrapati Bhavan, Jama Masjid and walking through India Gate and up to the Parliament are very pleasant. A good way to de-connect from your day to day, but don't expect to rest. Find time to visit the world's largest Spice Market where the smells and colours will come as a surprise.  I really enjoyed my time in the Red Fort Complex as there is a peaceful garden inside and it is a good way to visualise the Mughal architecture and planning. 

Varanasi: We spent 3 days in this town and it is worth a detour, but 2 days should be enough. Varanasi is a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh dating to the 11th century B.C. Regarded as the spiritual capital of India, the city draws Hindu pilgrims who bathe in the Ganges River’s sacred waters and perform funeral rites. Along the city's winding streets are some 2,000 temples, including Kashi Vishwanath, the “Golden Temple,” dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. We were exposed to some of the rituals and in these 3 days, I saw more dead bodies than I will ever in my life I think.

Agra: It is a major tourist destination because of its many splendid Mughal-era buildings, most notably the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, all 3 of which are UNESCO world heritage sites. We went into the Taj Mahal and in the park on the other side of the river, and if I were you, I wouldn't bother getting into the Taj Mahal. The view from the other side of the river is as good. This is a very personal opinion and I know that some would disagree ;)

Jaipur: We really enjoyed our time in the largest city and capital of Rajasthan because the city has some much to offer and is a bit calmer. Actually, we saw a big difference of cleanliness and customer service when entering this region. If I were you, I would take a rickshaw for the day and ask the driver to bring you to the Amer Fort, the Hawa Mahal, the Jal Mahal and the Nahargarh Fort. With great honesty, even if I have been tough with India in my opening paragraph, I must say that India has Forts that should shy away France and its Chateaux de la Loire. The only problem that India has is about preserving its heritage. 

We also visited Jodhpur, Pushkar and Udaipur but I would only advise you to go to Jodhpur. Indeed, Pushkar is said to be in "the middle of the Thar Desert" and tourists should come to enjoy a "walk with the camels", but to be honest with you, there is no sandy desert and the only thing you may enjoy would be the Camel Fair (November). However, if you are a fan of the world's oldest religion, Hinduism, then it is worth the detour. I personally don't endorse this religion or "way of life" and I find it to be a real lucrative business here in India. (More on that below)
High level Spotlight on India - Hinduism

From my understanding, Hinduism is a religion or a way of life, and is the only religion that worships god as male or female. It is said to be the 3rd largest religion after Christianity and Islam and is the oldest religion in the world. There is no prophet nor any binding holy book. Hindus believe that all living creatures have a soul, which they believe to be eternal.

Spending 3 days in Varanasi has really helped understand the rituals and put things in perspective. We were not allowed to take pictures or film but to visualise some of the rituals, please follow this link (not mine but good info). As mentioned previously, I do not endorse this religion because it segments people in groups and it is too much of a business. Here in India, it is evident that it is the Opium of the masses and it is very unfortunate. Because there is a high degree of inequalities and because some of the casts or sub casts don't have access to education, they don't know what else is out there, so they don't revolt, but if India continues to maintain these inequalities, they could be massive riots in the coming years. 

High level Spotlight on India - Caste System

India's caste system is among the world's oldest forms of surviving social stratification. Rooted in religion and based on a division of labour, the caste system, among other things, dictates the type of occupations a person can pursue and the social interactions that she may have. The system bestowed many privileges on the upper castes while sanctioning repression of the lower castes by privileged groups. I find it crazy to know that this system has generally been accepted for over 3000 years. Indians, get out in the streets!! The main castes are further divided into about 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes, each based on their specific occupation.

The government shouts out loud that changes can be identified and that quotas have been implemented to recruit the lower castes but one should not forget that most of the estate is still owned by the Priests...

Another frustration which could kill tourism in the short term?  Process of demonetisation...

While we were in India, an estimated 40% of cash dispensers were empty, meaning people and us included, were unable to withdraw notes. Unlike Europe where we can buy a Kit-Kat with a Visa, Indians pay everything by cash and outlets are not yet equipped to receive payments by card. (Apparently only 3% of Indians have a bank accountant). When there was cash in the ATMs (and we were only about to withdraw 30 euros), people had to queue for +3 hours. Luckily, I always found a way to skip the queue (as a true French man) but I heard that many tourists cancelled their trips or went elsewhere until the issue was resolved. Also, changing money was also deemed difficult or very costly. This is hitting directly the small businesses. For a bit of context, the government is doing this because fake money, produced in Pakistan was circulating in mass, and there is also a supposed objective to tackle corruption...

The picture above sums up well India: it is a real mess!!
Thanks for reading and in next month's newsletter I will be talking about my trip to Thailand, Cambodia with the family and Vietnam. I am actually in Thailand, and I love it!  Stay safe!
Thank you for your interest and let's stay in touch!
My mailing address is:Team@venturide.com

Contact Jean Malissard on + 44 (0) 7880 173 666



 






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