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April 2017

India – the worst country I’ve been to

Within 2017 I will have visited more than a 100 countries. That means I’m not very far away from that number now. It also means that I’ve seen some fantastic countries – and some less fantastic and that I have a lot to compare with. Far from all countries are amazing, but most have some elements that I like and even if I will never go back, I usually have some good memories and things to say about the country. However, I really struggle to say anything good, what so ever, about India. Let’s start from the back for once; in my book I give India 2 out of 10 points as a destination to visit. The only reasons I give two points instead of zero are easy; it’s always interesting to see a new country no matter how you like it. It gives you perspective – and I must say India really did. For example, I stayed 2 days in New Delhi, one of the world’s biggest cities with around 25 million people living there. To see how people live in such a place makes me feel extremely lucky I live in Scandinavia – or actually I would feel happy living most places than here. The other point I give because of the feeling when leaving the country – it’s such a blessing to board the flight and leave India saying to myself: NEVER again!

As always, it’s not about what you think – but why you think so. So how come my opinion is like this? First of all, as a disclaimer, I was only there for one week and only visited the “heart of India” also called the Golden Triangle which is a road trip between New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. So you might say that I judge a book by it’s cover when I say that India sucks – I can under stand that. On the other hand though; I don’t need to eat a whole pizza in order to tell whether I like it or not – even though the ingredients might not be 100 % equally distributed over the pizza. So, let the shit hit the fan:

  • it’s busy
  • it’s dirty
  • it’s noisy
  • it’s hectic
  • it was unfortunately extremely warm with about 45 degrees mid day every day and no wind or ocean
  • the food is amazing, but when it sends you to the toilet for days, it’s not that amazing anymore
  • besides Taj Mahal, it wasn’t beautiful at all
  • the people were not friendly at all, just rude and asking for money everywhere for no reason. Of course a sad consequence of being a poor country, but I’ve been to many countries even more poor with people behaving a lot better.
  • no beautiful nature, just flat and boring (even though there is in the north of India)
  • nothing really to do, besides some temples etc. but that’s quiet boring after a day or two
  • last but not least; I didn’t like the vibe at all. Really hard to relax and just enjoy being here.

    Yet, as I said, I’m glad I went here since it really enriched my perspective of the world and how lucky I am being from Scandinavia. To see more people living in one single city, than in all of Scandinavia, makes you think you are a part of the so called lucky-sperm. As glad as I am leaving India, equally glad am I for departing for my next destination. Hopefully the straight opposite of India and a real hidden gem. Time will tell, stay tuned.

Everest Basecamp – the adventure

After almost 8 months of traveling, time had finally come for my personal highlight of the entire trip: The Everest Basecamp trek in the Himalayas in Nepal. The name itself, the challenge, the sceneries and the list goes on – what’s not to get excited for here?! I came here with expectations as high as Everest itself. That’s always risky, just as the higher a mountain is the deeper you can fall – and the more disappointed you can get. But my gut feeling was right, this turned out to be like a dream.

I’m not going to go through every part of it, since that’s not very fun either to write or read. It’s more about the feeling of this adventure, the rewarding challenge, the breathtaking nature  and the simple lifestyle that comes with it. To be honest, you don’t do much besides walking, eating, sleeping and of course spending time with other trekkers. For sure a simple life, but that’s also goes for my entire trip and really something I wanted. Being a really  remote area of the world adds up to the simplicity of the life along this trek. No roads, no cars, not even meat as it’s hard to transport and to keep it cool and very limited wifi contributes to the simple lifestyle – and I loved it. Instead of people sitting on their phones the entire time checking things just for the cause of checking, instead people were talking, playing cards and having a good time. It was really relaxing to be offline for such a while. Definitely something I’ll try to continue with.

I also have to rose Nepal with it’s people and the artistic nature that mother earth created here. Let’s start with the easy one; the nature. After a scenic flight from Kathmandu into the Himalayas, you get stunned pretty much after just a few meters. Mighty mountains, roaring rivers, forests, suspension bridges, temples and loads of breathtaking views pretty much along the whole trek. We were blessed with good weather 12 out of 13 days, and that day full of snow was just a beautiful contrast to the blue skies. If these mountains were impressive, I literally have no words for the people working and living along this trek. I’m of course thinking of the sherpas and porters. From young age, I guess around 15, they walk this (and other treks in Nepal) carrying unbelievable loads of packing. To put it in perspective: boys around 1,65 meters and with an own bodyweight of 65-70 kilos were carrying 70-120 kilos – some of them in just flip flops! For you to really understand, it’s not exactly a walk in Central Park in NY. We are talking around 130 kilometers, going from 2500 to 5400 meters above sea level, sometimes rough and cold weather and last but not least; they are probably walking this faster than you would without a single kilo on your back. Maybe you ask why are they doing this? Well, it’s easy. It’s their way of making a living. For a lot of people it’s the only way of earning money to support their families. Keep this in mind next time you sit in your office chair and complain about a tough day. It could be even tougher.

Everest Base camp is a thrilling name. For many people it fills you with respect and it sounds extremely hard. Hard it its, but it’s still just a really long walk and the only real problem I would say can be the altitude. I suffered from some headache and nausea, for half a day really bad, but that wasn’t going to stop me. Winner never quit and quitters never win. The rewarding feeling of reaching the goal was way too tempting! I also think this is something EVERYONE should do. Not feeling fit enough? Well, perfect reason to get in shape. No mountaineering experience? No problem, you are in good hands go the Nepalese guides and fellow trekkers. Not sure this is for you? I’m sure this is for everyone and trust me, you will thank me afterwards.

Last but definitely not least, it’s never about the destination or the activity. That’s of course two contributing things when it comes to enjoy an adventure – but the most important factor is always the people. We were a mixed group of 13 people from the US, Europe, Latin-America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and of course local Nepalese guides. I met some friends on this trek that I hopefully will keep for life and for sure meet later on my trip and I’m super excited to see those familiar and friendly faces again. As cliché as it its, I’ll round of this post from two of the best weeks of my life, with a quote. I guess one of my favorite quotes, because it makes a lot of sense and it’s origin is really inspiring:

Happiness only real when shared” – Christopher McCandless

 

Big and busy Bangladesh, Dhaka

Most of my readers, not that I have many, probably live in Scandinavia. We all know the busy and hectic days before Christmas, when everyone is walking and driving around looking for those last gifts. If you take that kind of «chaos» and multiply it with about 40 000, add 30 degrees, weird smells and lots of sounds – then you get Dhaka. The capital of Bangladesh which is not just considered a city but a megacity and it’s the 5th most populated city in the world – and by far the most hectic.

This place was not in my original plan, but due to a flight cancellation I had to spend two nights here. The bad thing with this is that I lost two days of organization in Kathmandu, Nepal. But I try to think positive and it’s always interesting to visit a new country and city, even if it’s just for a couple of days. And interesting it was, trust me.

Cars, rickshaws, motorbikes, bicycles and people EVERYWHERE! Just to get from the airport to my budget hotel, a distance about 5 kilometers, took almost 2 hours in a taxi. The traffic was congested, slow but hectic and aggressive at the same time. I truly admire the people driving in these conditions.

I didn’t really have any idea where to stay in Bangladesh, so I took a hotel somewhere between the «old town» where the most tourists go and the airport, since I didn’t want to stay too far from the airport having an early flight when I leave Dhaka. Dead tired after a long day, I went straight to bed ready to explore this megacity tomorrow.

I soon found out that I was staying in an area where foreigners and western people are VERY uncommon and I didn’t see a single one in my almost two days here. But that didn’t leave me alone, rather the straight opposite. I couldn’t even walk 5 seconds out of the hotel in the morning before a big crowd of 20-30 people started to gather around me and follow me. At first a little uncomfortable having all these people watching and following me, where they going to rob me? It was clearly I was not a local being tall, white and with my long blonde hair and blue eyes. It turned out they were just extremely curious and wanted to talk to me. And trust me, they did. Everywhere I went people looked at me, stopped me, shook my hand, asked lots of questions, took pictures and, a bit odd, touched me. Even though not everybody hear speak English, they all knew one word: selfie. Selfie is the new autograph and I guess I was in at least 1000 selfies this day. Everyone who stopped, approached, talked or even looked at me were men. Women are very conservative here and I guess also a bit shy. After a day walking the streets here, talking to random people, participating in pictures I was dead tired. That being said, it also gave me lots of energy since they were all just friendly, positive and curious. The hospitality of the Bangla people are among the best I’ve witnessed.

I always try to «live in the moment», but right now there is something big on my mind. Literally big. Actually the biggest mountain on earth, Mount Everest. Tomorrow morning I fly to Kathmandu in Nepal, spending one day there for some organization before we leave for the 15 day trek to and from Everest Basecamp.

I must admit, in addition to being super excited, I’m also a little nervous. I know it doesn’t help to worry and worry will never change the outcome so I try not to do it since it’s only a waste of energy and it will increase your stress level. But at the same time, if what you do, whether it’s your job, your hobbies or how you live your life, doesn’t make you the slightest nervous – does it really mean something to you? And is it really worth it?

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