Stories from a Tour of Asia: Taj Mahal and Thai Beaches

Beaches, Con Artists and Hopes

I’m home and figured I’d send a wrap up to my travels. The second to last day of my vacation was one of the best. It was a beautiful day on the most beautiful beach with the most beautiful girls. The sky was clear blue, the water was warm and calm, and the girls were French. One of them was half Pakistani and half Vietnamese. I was tempted to go to Paris instead of coming home. The island was Koh Samet which is four hours from Bangkok, Thailand. Normally, it isn’t considered among Thailand’s best but the French girls picked out what the travel book said was the best beach on the island on the ferry ride across and I invited myself along. I swam for several hours on each of the two days I was in the island and then hopped a bus on the mainland to arrive back in Bangkok the night before my flight.

Before spending three days in Thailand which was on my route home from Bombay, I had two terrific weeks in India. I caught up with many old friends and went out just about every night. I helped out with orienting some of the new students who are just starting their MBA this September and got to give a speech at their inauguration since I was the distinguished alumni. I gave a good speech.

I also managed to visit Delhi for several days and made a day trip out to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. I’ve been scammed many times in my travels but think I fell for half a dozen ruses in Delhi. I was told attractions were closed and that particular tours were better than others. All lies of course. I went to visit Jama Masid, the largest mosque in India. At the door I was offered a tour of the place, declined it and then grudgingly accepted after being pestered. After the fifteen minute tour, I was cornered in an alcove of the mosque and told that I owed 250 Rupees ($5) for fifteen minutes of the guide’s time. I told the guide that I had intended to tip him but that since he was such a thug and a rip off that I wasn’t giving him a dime. I then jumped down off the three foot balcony into the main square of the mosque and walked away. When I was leaving, he told me I owed him 100 Rupees. I told him that I had given a nice fat donation to the mosque on his behalf.

A tour agency sold me a “bus” trip to Agra where the Taj Mahal is located that took place in a shabby van. In Agra, the hustlers were even worse. I found one restaurant that had three menus: one for the foreigners, one for the Indian tourists and one for the locals. The owners grew upset when I collected all three menus and told them that I would only pay what was on the cheapest menu. Eventually, they said that they would not serve me. At the next place I went to, I demanded a 50% discount and was given it, so I think I paid just a little more than I should have. By the time I got to the Taj Mahal, I was so frustrated and tired that I almost got teary eyed upon seeing it. The Taj Mahal, a palace crafted of the most refined and ornately carved white marble, is justly famous. I was only able to stay for an hour even though I would have been happy to stay for five.

At the start of the seventeen hour, $30 train ride back to Bombay from Delhi, I was in a compartment with 3 South Africans of Indian origin, an Indian couple with a two year old baby and a Japanese girl. My first sight when I sat down was Asuka, the Japanese girl, crying hysterically because a thief took her shoulder bag—with her passport, mobile phone, digital camera, cash and credit cards. I cheered her up with my ten Japanese phases. While she had not kept her stuff in a money bag, the experience didn’t increase my fondness for Delhi. When we got to Bombay, I went with Asuka to the Mumbai Central Police Station. The police had the nerve to tell us that she had to go back to Delhi to file a report. After three hours, the police finally gave us an official police report. I think maybe they wanted a bribe but I’m glad we didn’t give them one. I wish I could have blown my temper a bit but that would have just made things worse.

On my plane ride home from Bangkok to Tokyo, I sat with a twenty-five year old Thai girl who was going to marry her 40-year old boyfriend in San Francisco who she has spent all of two weeks with on two separate occasions. She said many of her friends were jealous but that she really had no wish to go to America. She was going just because she loved her boyfriend. She had $35 in her pocket—that was all her family could afford to scrap together. Certainly, I don’t know enough but I hope life works out for her.

Friday was graduation so I officially have my MBA. Mostly it was an excuse to travel. I’ve visited seven countries this year: India, Costa Rica, Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam & Cambodia. I won’t be forgetting the beggars in Bombay, the smog in Shanghai or prostitutes evident in just about every country I’ve visited. I don’t know whether the museums from the wars in Hiroshima or Vietnam or the thoughts of all the women who had nothing to sell but themselves bothered me more during my trip. Neither will I be forgetting the beaches in Kerala (India), the mountains in North Vietnam or half a dozen other highlights. I believe my travels are somewhat frivolous but consider myself pretty fortunate to have seen so much of the world. I hope I can visit many of my newly-made friends from my travels again someday as well as all the old ones I saw along the way.

I’m going to go find myself a job or create one. In the meantime, I’ll campaign for John Kerry—and pray for my country even though I’m not much for praying. To those who have read my spiels, thanks. If I’ve made your spam list, thanks for keeping me humble.

Until the next adventure,
Mike

P.S. I owe pictures to some of you, more stories to others and school work to still others…give me a couple of days.

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~ by Admin on September 10, 2004.

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