A Travellerspoint blog

Shock and Awe

A warm welcome to Montego Bay, Jamaica's transit system

You know you're doing something right when the locals are shocked.

No, there's no indecent exposure or gluttonous consumption of Bob Marley's irie herb.

Just the simple task of taking a shared taxi.

Joanie and I arrived in Montego Bay, Jamaica a few hours ago - a theoretical scouting party for the wedding we're attending (shhh..don't tell Joanie, maybe our own...) in Ocho Rios next weekend...

We're excited to bust out our resort wear, sip on Red Stripe and coconut cocktails, but you know us...we need a good Bucketbath adventure before vacating to the beach towel.

So here we were at Montego Bay's airport figuring out how to get to the guest house that we booked this morning before our flight.

Taxi drivers in crisp white shirts are hustling to take us for a ride. Literally and figuratively.

"No we want to take public transport," i told the attendant at Sandals, where we first asked for directions. He did a double take and asked if we were sure as he reluctantly pointed us in the direction of the terminal exit. He funneled us to another gentlemen who operates a taxi booth, who sensing no business opportunity, walked us outside and pointed.

But first we needed to grab some Jamaican Dollars. Most tourist sites and hotels take US Dollars, but if we're going to get off the grid, then Jamaican currency is a must.

As we waited in line (accidentally cutting in front of a Jamaican guy wearing a jungle yellow and red floral themed Tommy Bahama shirt, who later told me I had to just tell the drivers off so they'd stop bothering us) one taxi driver after another approached, offering a ride at a "great price."

Sure it's more convenient to take a taxi - door to door service - but where's the fun?

And watching people's surprise as we tell them we want to take a shared taxi - like the Master card commercial...memories are priceless.

We fought the hustlers away and asked a few women in uniform who appeared to be on break and were pointed in the right direction. Only after trying to dissuade us from taking the shared taxi.

Was it dangerous? For Jamaican's only? Really smelly?

Nah - just not done.

They said walk to the stand, sit down in the taxi with red plates and tell him you're going downtown and be clear that you are not hiring the taxi.

Just going for a ride.

So we did and off we went, getting dropped off in downtown Montego Bay where we crossed the street and a super nice woman who'd also been a passenger in the taxi (a white Nissan 4-seater) hailed our connecting shared taxi and off Joanie I went to the Bethel Guest house.

We're here, just had an amazing fresh mango and sipping Red Stripe. No ocean view, but jungle all around and the mellow reggae rock steady.

Tonight we're gonna head into town tonight for some anthropological research.

Daggering anyone?

Stay tuned for more Bucketbath adventures..we're back baby. We're back.

Posted by bucketbath 15:49 Archived in Jamaica Tagged taxi jamaica bay montego shared Comments (0)

Bucketbath films presents...

Laos, Cambodia, India and Nepal

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We haven't had the most reliable internet for the last month and a half. These videos are long overdue: starting with our most recent trek in Nepal and working through India, Cambodia and Laos.

Micah and I arrive back in NYC at the end of this week. We're currently in Delhi again and fly back to NYC, via Milan, Italy in 2 days. We're both experiencing bittersweet feelings about returning home. While we can't wait to see friends and family, returning to "normal" life is going to take quite a bit of adjusting after 7.5 months of a nomadic, backpacker lifestyle. I'm having anxiety about having to wear something other than my Chacos and hiking boots on my feet and having a full wardrobe again!

I'm sure a wrap up post is on it's way from each of us. Until then, enjoy the movie previews!

See you all soon!

Joanie

Our most recent trek through the Himalayas in Nepal

"Incredible" India is their national slogan. They sure don't disappoint.

Our Angkor Wat experience

This one goes waaaay back to Laos!

Posted by bucketbath 04.16.2012 18:04 Archived in India Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains beaches trees animals snow boats hiking temple travel india vacation mountain trekking elephant cambodia friends holiday angkor life safari himalayas funny relaxation trip asia eating photography tourism relax pictures movies rupees hindu stupa spiritual videos relief vang vieng sandcastle incredible vientiene micah amristar slapstick dharmsala pilgramage rubin bucketbath Comments (3)

School of Hope

While traveling in Bangladesh, I had the opportunity to document a slum school located in the city's northern outskirts.

The School of Hope not only teaches 200 students a core curriculum, provides meals but also instills the importance of hygiene a sanitation, things that don't often exist in the hovel-filled slum.

To see Micah's photos from the school click on the below link and for more information on their programs click on the school's Web site: Here


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School of Hope

Posted by bucketbath 07:20 Archived in Bangladesh Tagged photo of b school photography aid hope brush tooth relief dhaka slum hygiene micah sanitation rubin Comments (0)

"Incredible India"

India living up to it's national slogan

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I have to admit, I haven't been very good at bathing in this bucket lately. Our last few weeks in India were emotionally draining as India's in-your-face culture, sights, colors, smells and sounds can be taxing on the senses. The national slogan of "Incredible India" certainly doesn't disappoint. Unfortunately, it's "incredible-ness" resulted in me moping around miserable and on the constant verge of a breakdown. Poor Micah has endured a lot lately!

We have since moved on to Nepal, but India did produce some amazing experiences. Dharamsala, home to the Dali Llama, and Rishikesh, where The Beatles wrote a majority of their "White" album, were spiritual playgrounds. I was in all my glory with fresh mountain air, yoga classes and an Ayurveda cooking and nutrition course.

We visited the magnificent, Golden Sikh temple in Amritsar and experienced eating shoulder to shoulder on the floor with 1,000's of Indians and their families on pilgrimage. The temple provides free meals, 24/7 with a volunteer run kitchen and feeds over 80,000 people a day. Everyone is encouraged to jump in and lend a helping hand washing dishes, peeling potatoes and serving chai. A short taxi ride out of Amritsar to the Indian / Pakistan border allowed us to witness to the spectacle that occurs nightly when the border closes. It's equipped with thousands of spectators sitting in grand stands, a dance party, flag waving, cheering and a showdown by the plume wearing, boot stomping guards on both sides. It felt like a sporting event.

About 2 of our weeks in India were spent traveling through the desert cities, and ancient sandcastle-like forts of Rajasthan. The highlight for me was a 2 day camel safari. To the dismay of our bums, we rode camels for 5 hours each day, breaking mid-afternoon to enjoy chai, chipati and dal cooked over a fire. All the while, our camels munched happily on the trees providing our shade. In the evening, we watched a beautiful sunset, with another chai in hand, over giant sand dunes before turning in for the night to the sounds of our camels chewing, belching and pooping. I made the ironic comparison of it seeming like we were sleeping in a planetarium. There were more stars than I imagined the universe to even hold. We awoke with our blankets surrounded by a complex highway system of footprints that was build by visiting Dung beetles over night. (I hope I kept my mouth closed while I was sleeping.)

Our next stop was the awe inspiring Taj Mahal. India showed us many of the negative effects that tourism can produce and it was most noticeable here. It has created an annoying scene of relentless rickshaw drivers, a two tier pricing system and souvenir sellers. Do people even buy snow globes anymore?! The Taj Mahal was beautiful but this is where dear India started to weigh on me.

My full emotional breakdown occurred in the holy city of Varanasi. The city is a pilgrimage site for Hindus. People come here to die and be cremated at the burning ghats along the polluted Ganga River. Every 20 minutes, another ornately wrapped, deceased body is carried through the people, cow and motorbike crowded streets on it's journey to the burning ghat. Personally, the atmosphere was very unsettling as death is something that is celebrated and not mourned in the Indian culture. It's very different from what we know. Our guesthouse was within 50 yards of the largest cremation ghat that burns 24/7 with multiple fires. I found myself feeling sick, temperamental, emotionally drained and overwhelmed. I tend to be the person in the room that becomes upset when I sense someone is unhappy. I think my body is too tuned into energy to be able to cope with the death, overcrowding and nightly celebration of singing and prayers that occurs in Varanasi. In addition to this, tourism has yet again reared it's ugly head with in your face touts, unofficial guides, boat drivers, drug sellers and children begging you to take their picture in exchange for Rupees. It was all too much and I spent a majority of the time jailed up in our windowless room.

After Varanasi, I couldn't escape India quickly enough. A 12hr government bus ride from India landed us in the quiet, small town of Lumbini, Nepal which archeologists have declared as the birthplace of Buddha. We've since called the more energetic city of Kathmandu our home as we've settled here for Passover. The Chabad House here holds the biggest Passover Seder in the world.

It's hard to believe we only have about 2 weeks of our trip remaining! This weekend we'll be heading north to start 7-days trekking through the Himalayas. I'm hoping to keep my remaining toenails in tact-I lost my 3rd one a few weeks ago with a shrug.

Now that my emotional state is on the mend, I'll try to be a more consistent bucket-bathing blogger! I've got new videos and photos to post as soon as we have faster internet.

Much love from Nepal

Posted by bucketbath 04.05.2012 09:42 Archived in India Tagged children desert culture temple india fort bus the trekking river golden safari buddha varanasi fire ganga bath llama cooking camel nepal dali tourism motorbikes mahal taj dal experience yoga rajasthan kathmandu pokhara volunteer ghat journey stars cows beatles rupees sikh hindu cremation spiritual rishikesh bucket nutrition dharamsala souvenir ayurveda rickshaw chai lumbini sandcastle beetles incredible passover dung senses planetarium amristar emotional pilgramage chipati touts beggers governement chabbad seder toenails Comments (4)

The Village People

Check out another installment of photos from Thaunggok, a tiny village in Western Myanmar and stay tuned for an entry about ending up in a cave with a naga baba aka naked guru.

(Don't worry, I kept my clothes on.)


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http://blog.micahbrubin.com/?p=436|Myanmar 5

Posted by bucketbath 07:12 Archived in Myanmar Tagged market shopping burma hat myanmar vendor wicker thaunggok taunggok Comments (0)

Shopping Fever

Photos from Thaunggok market, a tiny Burmese town with amazingly friendly smiles

Getting stuck in Thaunggok, a tiny town in Western Myanmar turned out to be some of the best days traveling through country.

With no foreigners around but me (and the people not yet jaded by tourism), I had amazing time exploring and meeting the locals.

Getting stranded couldn't have been more fun!

Follow the below link for more photos.


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http://blog.micahbrubin.com/?p=423

Posted by bucketbath 06:18 Archived in Myanmar Tagged market shopping burma hat myanmar vendor wicker thaunggok taunggok Comments (0)

Burmese Nazi?

Photos from Yangon, Myanmar

Just added a bunch of new images from Yangon, Myanmar including the below pic of a Burmese Nazi (or maybe just a punk)...click on the below photos (or links) to see the new images.

Happy Purim!


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Myanmar 2


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Myanmar 1

Posted by bucketbath 03:24 Tagged chinatown photo monkey yangon myanmar nazi Comments (2)

You've missed us?

This bucket is back and filled to the brim!

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Hiking in Himachal Pradesh

Hiking in Himachal Pradesh


Bucketbath is back! Micah and I hope you are as happy as we are to have this water pail-o-fun back together. We're spending the next month traveling through north India and have already checked New Delhi and Dharamsala off the list.

Tomorrow, we'll endure another never ending bus ride to the city of Amritsar to visit the Golden Sikh Temple and also see what is supposed to be a very entertaining changing of the guard at the border of India and Pakistan.

Enjoy our dorky antics. You've had 6 weeks to recover from the last one, it's overdue.

And don't forget to click on Micah's newest blog post from his website with some portraits from Myanmar! They are incredible as usual.

http://blog.micahbrubin.com/?p=380

Posted by bucketbath 03.01.2012 12:15 Archived in India Tagged hiking travel india mountain flag gross tibet trash lama wind cold silly cows prayer dharamsala political slapstick himalyas prisoner refuges dalhi strut noogie Comments (0)

Dharma Blues

A Conversation With a Former Tibetan Political Prisoner

We think of prisoners as violent offenders, exploiting or flouting the law. But what happens when laws intentionally distort life into a mutilating world of oppression and violence?

Tibetan refugees.

Joanie and I arrived in Dharamsala, India yesterday morning after a 13-hour overnight bus ride from Delhi. Home to the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan government in exile and around 80,000 Tibetan refugees, Dharamsala is a tranquil mountain town carved into the Himalayan foothills.

After exploring the city and the Kalachakra Temple, where the Dalai Lama resides, we spent a few hours practicing English with former Tibetan political prisoners who escaped China-controlled Tibet.

Jigme ("Like the American name, Jimmy," he said) is a 42-year old monk and below is his story:

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His troubles began with a notebook.

It is illegal in China (which includes Tibet) to talk or write about the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader who fled to India in 1959 under a cloud of Chinese violence.

Since then, China has systematically worked to destroy Tibetan identity through "reeducation" programs, forcing the use of the Chinese language, subjugating Tibetan Buddhism, economic warfare, and many other restrictions on the Tibetan way of life.

Jigme had written an essay in his notebook about the Dalai Lama, and somehow - he does not know who turned him in - the police found out.

They came to his monastery and after convincing them to search only the room he shared with a fellow monk and his library of sacred Tibetan texts (and not the rooms of the 4 young monks he taught) the police found the offending notebook.

He had lent it to a friend who was arrested and sent to prison.

Two months later, the police returned and arrested Jigme for writing about the Dalai Lama. (He assumes his friend, while being tortured, told them Jigme was the notebook's rightful owner).

He was sentenced to a year in prison in deplorable conditions: sharing a drearily small cell with 3 other prisoners (at one point they included a murderer and thief) that had no running water and only a bucket for toilet. They weren't given blankets and struggled to keep warm through Tibet's frigid winter. They were only allowed to leave the cell for 30 minutes - once a month.

They were fed - twice a day - rice soup (he put out his hand and drew a circle with his finger on his palm, illustrating the soup's pittance of rice) and 2 pieces of rice cake. Hardly enough food to keep a man full, let alone keep warm during the winter.

Luckily his family lived nearby and brought him food. But more often than not it was confiscated by the prison guards. Sometimes the guards let him keep the food and Jigme divided what he received evenly with his cell mates.

The prisoners with whom he shared his cell changed every 3 months but all turned to Jigme for advice and council, he said. They respected him since monks are revered in Tibetan culture. At one point, one of his cell mates was a weak Chinese man and Jigme fought another Tibetan prisoner to defend the man from abuse.

After one year and the sentence complete, he returned to his former life. But the police continued to harass him, ordering him to the police station 3-4 times a month to find out what he was doing and ask about other Tibetans.

Unable to endure such treatment, Jigme decided to leave. Leave his family, friends, monastery, homeland, for the chance of a life free of persecution.

But first, he had to get from Tibet to Nepal, the first stop for fleeing Tibetan refugees.

After taking a taxi to the border, he paid 6000 RMB (around $1000) to be smuggled across the mountainous frontier.

For two days the guide shepherded him over snowy mountain passes, avoiding the guard posts of China (whose soldiers are notorious for killing fleeing Tibetans; the arm of a refugee we met was healing from a China's border guard's bullet) and Nepal (who return escaping refugees to China, guaranteeing them a prison sentence; the 8-year old son of the refugee Joanie spoke to was caught and sent to a Chinese prison for 6 months and is now afraid to risk joining his father here).

The Tibetan government maintains a refugee center in Katmandu where fleeing Tibetans (once they arrive) receive paperwork for their next destination: India and Dharamsala.

Jigme arrived here in April 2011 and was fortunate enough to meet and have his photo taken with the Dalai Lama. Bestowed with such an honor, Jigme sent a copy of the photo to his Mother and 6 siblings in Tibet who must keep it hidden.

If the Chinese authorities were to find the photo, it would be confiscated and his family possibly arrested.

Yet despite their freedom here, Tibetans do not feel liberated.

Last weekend was the Tibetan New Year. Unlike their normal new year celebrations, this year's observance was a muted, mournful event. A lamentation of the many deaths at the hands of the Chinese authorities (more one million since 1949) and the recent self immolations many Tibetans are turning to in protest.

It's sad when an notebook's essay can land someone in prison and even sadder when the essay's subject, a revered spiritual leader preaches peace and compassion.

Below are a few links Jigme asked me to share with friends and family to learn more about the plight of Tibetan and the Tibetan people:

www.tibet.net
www.tibetexpress.net

Posted by bucketbath 02.28.2012 09:50 Archived in India Tagged india china himalayas buddha refugee tibet free freedom dharmsala liberation Comments (3)

The Faces of Yangon, Myanmar

Myanmar's an amazing place where people's inquisitive personalities contrast the governments reclusive tendencies.

Things are changing there fast as the government peels open up the country to the west.

Check out a few photos - the first in a series I'll be adding - from Yangon, Myanmar's former capital and current economic hub.


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Posted by bucketbath 06:43 Archived in Myanmar Tagged burma nut portrait face yangon myanmar rangoon betel Comments (0)

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